British Columbia

Family suspends search for missing mushroom picker as winter weather sets in

The family of a 53-year-old mushroom picker who went missing in heavy forest north of Smithers, B.C., has called off its search until spring.

53-year-old Frances Brown went missing in heavy forest north of Smithers, B.C.

Roughly 30 volunteers continued to search for 53-year-old Frances Brown for weeks after the official mission to recover the missing mushroom picker was called off. (Witset Search and Rescue)

Weeks after the official search for a missing mushroom picker in northern B.C. was called off, family and friends have suspended their own efforts to find 53-year-old Frances Brown.

"This really is a hard day for everyone involved," read a post on the Witset Search and Rescue Facebook page, where efforts have been documented.

"It is felt that it is too dangerous for us to continue walking in the rugged backcountry with all the snow on the ground."

On Nov. 12, a fire was held 'to provide closure' for those searching for Frances Brown. (Witset Search and Rescue)

Brown, who is described by family as experienced in the backwoods, was mushroom picking in a heavily forested area north of Smithers on Oct. 14 when she was separated from her picking companion.

Nineteen search and rescue crews from around the province were called in, alongside RCMP and local volunteers, to make up what was the largest search operation in the region in years.

The official search was called off eight days after it began, but family and friends continued to explore the dense backcountry

The decision to suspend the unofficial search was made by family Nov. 11.

"It's a factor of time and weather," said Brown's grandnephew, David de Wit.

"We're just getting more snow here and conditions are getting rough out in the woods."

Frances Brown is described by family as experienced in backcountry exploration. (Smithers RCMP)

On Sunday, the remaining volunteers gathered for a ceremony of prayer and songs around a campfire in order to provide closure. 

De Wit said some people are continuing to search on their own, and while his family appreciates the effort, he hopes they will look after their own safety first.

"I'd just like to send the message to be careful and exercise caution out in the woods," he said.

Plans are in place to resume an organized search in spring 2018.

"The family does need closure, and we can't give up," de Wit said.