B.C. couple's family praying for 'another miracle'

The family of a B.C. woman rescued after spending 49 days stranded in remote Nevada says they are "praying for another miracle" and are hopeful the woman's husband will be found alive.

Penticton woman's survival of 49-day ordeal 'something close to a record': U.S. doctor

Canadian couple Albert and Rita Chretien are seen in this undated photo released by the RCMP. ((RCMP))


  • Weather hampers search of remote area
  • Missing man had GPS with him
  • Wife expected to make full recovery after 'miracle' rescue

The family of a B.C. woman rescued after spending 49 days stranded in remote Nevada says they are "praying for another miracle" and hope the woman's husband will be found alive.

"We were praying for a miracle, and boy did we get one," son Raymond Chretien told reporters at a news conference at the Idaho hospital where his 56-year-old mother, Rita Chretien, was recovering.

"We got the biggest miracle that we could ever have asked for, and there's still one more to come in," he said. "So we're still praying for another one and the search continues for my father but in the meantime we are rejoicing that we're here today and we can spend Mother's Day with our mother."

His words of hope came as the search for his father, Albert Chretien, 59, was impeded Sunday by poor weather.

The Chretiens left their home in Penticton and were driving to a Las Vegas trade show in mid-March when they decided to take a scenic route, and their van got stuck in mud on the logging road. After three days of trying in vain to dislodge the Chevrolet Astro, he set out on foot to seek help, aiming for a state highway 16 kilometres away.

Rescuers fear that even with his GPS unit, he might have lost his way.

Rita Chretien was rescued Friday by a pair of hunters who were passing through on all-terrain vehicles. She spent seven weeks marooned in the van, nibbling on a small amount of trail mix and drinking melted snow, and was conscious and able to speak when found.

Her son told reporters she kept a journal and was prepared for "whatever outcome."

"She's a Christian and she reads her Bible every day and she had books she was reading and she had time to think and pray and just prepare for whichever outcome that was going to come," he said.

"She didn't know what it was but she was prepared and she had a very clear indication that there would be something on Friday, whether it was to go home to be with her Saviour or to be rescued, and it was to be rescued.

"And here she is."

'Close to the end'

Dr. James Westberry, an internal medicine physician at St. Luke's Hospital in Idaho, said Chretien was days away from death when she was found and called her survival "something close to a record."

Rita Chretien spent seven weeks stranded in this van in remote Nevada before being rescued. (Global News)

 "She was definitely somewhat getting toward the end before she was found," Westberry told reporters.

"I must say it's unusal for us to see someone in this type of situation to actually not only survive but to be doing so well," he said.

Westberry said it's not clear when Chretien will be released, but said it could be as soon as a matter of days.

Airlifted to a hospital in Twin Falls, Idaho, Rita Chretien, who initially couldn't hold down food after she was rescued and had lost 20 to 30 pounds, is expected to fully recover, a hospital spokesperson said.

Her son said she survived by eating a tablespoon a day of trail mix for the first week, then eating snow, as well as some hard candy, fish oil and beef jerky she had in the couple's vehicle.

Husband 'unlikely' to be found alive: officials

The couple were reported missing in late March when they didn't return from their road trip. Because they had last been seen March 19 in southeastern Oregon, the first wave of searches focused there, on an area about 425 kilometres from where they got stuck.

Despite the family's joy, teams searching for Albert Chretien said it's "unlikely" he'll be found alive seven weeks after the couple got marooned.

"The odds of survival without any sort of protection seems real unlikely to me," Sgt. Kevin McKinney of the Elko County sheriff's department told CBC News.

"There are a lot of areas there, caves, things like that, where it would be possible, but without food or water it would be very difficult."

Asked in an interview Sunday whether the restarted search effort has much hope of finding Albert Chretien alive, McKinney said, "No, not really. But we didn't have much hope that Rita would be alive, either, so we're not counting anything out at this point."

MAP: a B.C. couple's perilous journey