Power line crew rescues woman lost for days in Bathurst-area woods
Saint-Isidore woman in relatively good condition after ordeal, police say
A 34-year-old woman missing for 13 days was found alive in a swampy, densely wooded area near Bathurst on Tuesday by a transmission line crew.
Police believe Jenny McLaughlin of Saint-Isidore had been walking in circles. She told them she survived on berries and swamp water.
An East Coast Powerline crew member had been lowered by helicopter to do maintenance on a transmission tower, when he heard what he thought was a woman calling for help.
"He was looking around, he wasn't sure if he was hearing things," company business manager Ashley Walker said Wednesday.
But the man, alone on the tower, quickly realized he wasn't hearing things and radioed back to the fly yard, where the crew was based. A helicopter was sent to the area of the tower.
Walker said the woman told the power crew her name, she had been lost for six days and couldn't walk anymore.
But McLaughlin was last seen July 15 in jeans and a hoodie at her home on the Acadian Peninsula. Family and friends, RCMP and ground search and rescue crews had been trying to find her since she was reported missing two days later
Car and phone found
Her car was found July 18 blocking an ATV trail near the Red Brook Shelter in Rough Waters, south of Bathurst.
RCMP Cpl. Kevin Plourde said her cellphone was found Saturday during another search of the area.
Just as an expanded search was being planned for Wednesday, Plourde said, RCMP received a 911 call that a woman had been found.
The power company had used its helicopter to pinpoint McLaughlin's location late Tuesday afternoon.
"She was located about 300 metres off the right of way," said Walker.
Walker said company workers hiked 2.4 kilometres, with a backboard and emergency supplies, to reach the woman. Other crew members accompanied RCMP and ambulance crews from the highway to the fly yard and then to where the woman was located.
I have never been this happy in my life. - James Hilt, Jenny McLaughlin's boyfriend
"Surprisingly, she was very responsive and talkative and extremely happy to see and talk to people after what I'm sure were some dreadful days in the woods," Walker said.
Walker said after finding a more suitable and closer location for the ambulance, McLaughlin was carried 1.25 kilometres by the crew through the woods and bog to a logging trail.
"She was safely transported out by our work crews through some dense woods, rough terrain on our backboard while being attended to by the medics."
Training paid off
Walker said the Nova Scotia-based company, which does power line and transmission tower repair and maintenance all over Canada and the United States, has dealt with other things in remote areas but nothing like this.
"We're very thankful that we were able to help and that we came across her, because if not it could have been a very different outcome that's for sure.
"We're thrilled with our guys and their level headed thinking and response. Our training paid off."
Plourde said the East Coast Powerline crew did an outstanding job to help stabilize McLaughlin and give her first aid until they arrived on scene.
Despite the experience in the woods, her condition was good, he said.
"I don't know how to say this but it's really impressive the condition she was in."
Plourde said he couldn't provide details of the injuries McLaughlin suffered, but she was able to speak clearly to police.
"She told us she had sustained herself by drinking water in the swamps and other water sources she would find, and she was eating blueberries and raspberries that she found on the ground."
Plourde said McLaughlin did an outstanding job to survive in those conditions in a wooded area with swamps and bogs.
McLaughlin was found about three kilometres from where her car was located, but Plourde said they think she had been walking in circles.
"To respect her privacy we won't say why she was there."
Plourde said RCMP were grateful for the help the power crew provided to the RCMP in getting McLaughlin to safety.
"It was really a rough terrain to extract her on a stretcher because due to the terrain we could not do an air medivac or ground medivac."
"It was a really good ending, in this case."
Plourde said MacLaughlin was taken to the Chaleur Regional Hospital, where she was treated and released.
In a Facebook post, her boyfriend, James Hilt, expressed his thanks to everyone who helped find MacLaughlin.
"After 13 days lost in the woods Jenny was found safe banged up but alive and is now home with her family."
Hilt thanked the RCMP, ground search and rescue crew and East Coast Powerline.
"Thanks to everyone. I have never been this happy in my life."