British Columbia

Rescued group drank swamp water as it spent 25 hours lost in Okanagan

A group of lakegoers who ended up lost in thick forest for 25 hours over the long weekend has been found safe in the Kelowna area on Sunday afternoon.

Group got lost chasing puppy into the forest

Rescuers lead a man and his dog out of the woods near Postill Lake, outside of Kelowna, B.C., on Sunday afternoon. The man, dog and two others had spent 25 hours lost in the forest before being rescued. (Central Okanagan Search and Rescue)

A group of lakegoers who ended up lost in thick forest for 25 hours over the long weekend was found safe in the Kelowna area on Sunday afternoon, after a night drinking water from a swamp before scrambling uphill for cell service.

Central Okanagan Search and Rescue said three people and their dog were found after searchers, driving through the new-growth forest on ATVs, heard them "screaming" for help. Another wave of rescuers had missed them minutes earlier, unable to hear them shouting through the dense brush.

"They seemed to be quite exuberant," search manager Duane Tresnich said of the rescuees, who are between 19 and 23 years old.

"They were all very happy that they were found."

Searchers spent six hours looking for the group by foot, bicycle and all-terrain vehicle. (Central Okanagan Search and Rescue)

First 18 hours lost

The group, two men and one woman, set out for a drive around Postill Lake on Saturday. They had their 10-month-old puppy in the backseat with the window rolled down.

They got lost and stuck in a ditch on a forestry road. The dog spotted a deer, leapt out the open window, bounded into the forest and disappeared.

The group abandoned their car to chase after the dog. A wrong turn, dead end and failed shortcut later, they were lost and out of service with no supplies.

A helicopter helped search for the group before rescuers on ATVs found them in dense, swampy terrain. (Central Okanagan Search and Rescue)

It would be 18 hours before they would be able to call for help.

"They spent the night sleeping in a swamp. Then, in the morning, they got up quite high on one of the hills and managed to get cell service," Tresnich said Tuesday.

"One of the men managed to call their mom."

A team member with Central Okanagan Search and Rescue stands in the area where the group was found, near Postill Lake. (Central Okanagan Search and Rescue)

Tresnich said rescuers started with the group's car and a ping on the cellphone to narrow down a search area. Crews found them in a dense, swampy area about six hours later.

"They're pretty much covered in bug bites," said Tresnich. "And they did drink the water in the swamp as a survival thing. You need water. However, it may be affecting them over the next couple of days."

The area around Postill Lake is crowded with three-metre high trees and a mess of logs felled by wind — not a place to be lost without a plan, Tresnich said.

"It's a great obstacle course if you're in the army. A really good training ground," the search manager said.

"There's always a 10 essentials to take when you go on a trip. Even if you do a little backpacking or a car trip, have some of those in your car. That way, if something like this ever happens, you could have some supplies. And never walk away from your car," he added.

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