Dog walker, 3 dogs found alive on 3rd day of search
Published Wednesday, November 22, 2017 8:40AM PST
Last Updated Wednesday, November 22, 2017 5:54PM PST
A dog walker and three dogs have been located three days after they were reported missing in Coquitlam, B.C.
Annette Poitras vanished Monday afternoon after telling friends she was taking her dog and two clients' pets for a walk in the Westwood Plateau area.
The 56-year-old was found alive Wednesday at approximately 11:15 a.m. Coquitlam RCMP said Poitras was speaking and conscious as rescuers performed first aid.
All three dogs were found safe with her.
- Read more on their survival story
Crews brought her some dry clothes and she and the dogs were rescued from the area by long-line.
Poitras was met by cheers and applause from family and friends before being taken to hospital by ambulance. She is expected to make a full recovery, and has been taken to hospital for treatment of minor injuries.
She was found in a marshy basin in a watershed area near Burke Mountain, "well outside of the normal trail system," Cpl. Michael McLaughlin said. She was in an area between two raging streams, huddled with the dogs.
The dog walker ended up in the area after slipping, injuring herself enough that she was unable to hike out on her own.
"During shoulder season, between winter and summer, you really have to respect the elements," McLaughlin cautioned.
He warned anyone going into the backcountry must be prepared, with supplies, food, a charged cellphone and light, because conditions can turn very quickly in the mountains. Poitras' footwear at the time was not ideal for the conditions, he said.
"I can't tell you how great it is when you can sit the family down and give them good news," he said. "It's a good day for us and a great day for the family."
The corporal said Poitras was located by a team that began with a wide area and narrowed in on places she might be.
Working off a tip, Coquitlam Search and Rescue manager Al Hurley said crews conducted a sound sweep and a cellphone ping. The dogs started barking so they knew they were on the right path.
Poitras' husband spoke to reporters at the scene with tears in his eyes, saying he couldn't breathe when he first heard the good news.
"You just can't imagine what it feels like," Marcel Poitras said.
"I've had some dark days here. I woke up this morning and I just knew it. I knew she was coming home today."
He said she's doing well and talking, though suffering from some type of back injury.
Marcel said he was thankful to those involved in the search, who have been open with him about their efforts and how everything works.
"I cannot possibly say enough. This is the result they work for, this is their reward. They made it themselves and they deserve everything they can get," he said.
"Support your local search and rescue, and you know what? Hug your spouse tonight. Whoever you're lying in bed with tonight, hold on to them."
When asked what the first thing he'll say to his wife will be, he said with a laugh that he'd promised their 19-year-old daughter he'd hold off until she's home to "start giving her s--t."
He said he's looking forward to getting her back home and getting back to normal.
The disappearance was first reported to police by Marcel, after Poitras failed to pick him up from a SkyTrain station Monday afternoon.
He went to the area where she said she'd be walking – an area near the Westwood Plateau golf course which she frequents when walking the older dogs – and found her empty van. He called 911, and Coquitlam Search and Rescue responded.
SAR crews scoured the trails near the golf course that evening for signs of Poitras. Teams from the North Shore, Surrey, Ridge Meadows, Sunshine Coast and Lions Bay joined the effort on Tuesday. Coquitlam police were brought in as well, and as many as 100 people were searching the area by Wednesday morning.
More rescuers had been en route from as far as Penticton when Poitras and the dogs were found.
The owners of the dogs who were with her said they are relieved Poitras and the pets were found safe and expressed their gratitude to all those who helped with the rescue effort.
"I so appreciate everything that's been done and all the efforts," said Janet Kilberg, one of the dog owners. "Annette is a good friend of mine and I wish her well, and I hope that she can get back out walking real soon because all the dogs love her."
Tina Presley, whose dog Bubba was missing, called Poitras "a dog whisperer," adding that "you see the love in her eyes."
"Thank you everybody who saved this woman," Presley said. "You have no idea how much this means to all of us. These people are incredible."
The rescue team was slowed by several days of wet weather, making conditions slippery and unsafe for anyone other than experts. Coquitlam SAR manager Michael Coyle described the search area as a "crazy maze of trails."
They asked the well-meaning public to avoid the area, worried their tracks, smells and clues could contaminate the scene. In particular, officials asked the public not to use drones to help the search.
With files from CTV Vancouver's Nafeesa Karim and Penny Daflos
"Hug your spouse tonight. Whoever you're lying in bed with tonight, hold on to them." - husband of dog walker found safe after 3 days outside. Story here: https://t.co/QMxPXhYLxI pic.twitter.com/cUo5RxqR32— Kendra Mangione (@kendramangione) November 22, 2017
MORE: Such an emotional scene here in Coquitlam. Husband of Annette Poitras hugging rescuers and family, tells us he had a premonition she'd be found today. Chopper now prepping to lift her out. @CTVVancouver pic.twitter.com/b41GyhsYTb— Penny Daflos (@PennyDaflos) November 22, 2017
Annette Poitras has been found. She's talking and responsive. She's getting dry clothes right now. Waiting for long line extraction. Missing for 2 nights in Coquitlam watershed pic.twitter.com/c2idUlCu3W— Nafeesa Karim (@nafeesakarim) November 22, 2017