Nova Scotia

Blueberry picker grateful to searchers after getting lost in Lake Echo fog

John Shannahan was enjoying a hot day picking wild blueberries in Lake Echo with an old friend on Wednesday, something he's done dozens of times over the past 10 years. But the late afternoon trip into the rugged area quickly hit a snag due to fast-moving fog that rolled into the area.

'I've never seen it so foggy before in my life. It was unreal'

This RCMP helicopter was used Thursday in the search for a lost blueberry picker in Lake Echo. (Paul Palmeter/CBC)

John Shannahan was enjoying a hot day picking wild blueberries in Lake Echo with an old friend on Wednesday, something he's done dozens of times over the past 10 years.

But the late afternoon trip into the rugged area quickly hit a snag due to fast-moving fog that rolled into the area.

"I've never seen it so foggy before in my life," Shannahan said from his home in Dartmouth. "It was unreal."

Shannahan became separated from his friend and they couldn't find each other.

Shannahan's hearing aids had gotten wet from sweat and he took them out because they weren't working. That just complicated matters.

John Shannahan is shown with some of the blueberries he picked while he was lost in the woods in Lake Echo. (Tracey Provost)

A search was quickly organized to try to locate Shannahan, but he was still missing as daylight faded.

He found an old camp with a boat that he was able to put to good use.

"I took it out into the lake and I dropped the anchor down and that's where I spent the night, which was quite comfortable," said Shannahan, who escaped the ordeal with only a few scratches. "I woke up around 5:30 in the morning and it was still foggy."

As Shannahan got the boat back to land the search was ramping up.

Five ground search teams joined Halifax Ground Search and Rescue, who had been scouring the woods all night. A pair of police canine units and two helicopters also joined the search.

Several ground search and rescue teams were in Lake Echo on Thursday. (Paul Palmeter/CBC)

Shannahan had some water with him and was eating some of the berries he had picked, but struggled with the terrain.

"I didn't panic but I kept going and going and found another little lake and there were old swamps and I pretty much had to swim across them. I didn't know where I was going."

It was just before noon, with temperatures already into the low 30s, when Shannahan managed to make his way back to Highway 107, not far from the area where he and his friend had parked the night before.

A pair of wind turbines served as a landmark so he had an idea of his location.

Fraser Kennedy was driving on the highway and spotted Shannahan.

"I looked at him and he had a walking stick and suddenly I realized that he looked like the description of the guy that was being looked for," said Kennedy. "I drove him up to where the searchers were gathered and turned him over to the RCMP."

Main concern was family

Kennedy said Shannahan's main concern was getting in touch with his family. He drove him back to the command centre that was set up at a car pool parking lot.

"As he was getting out of my truck he offered to give me his blueberries and I said, 'No, that's fine, you keep your blueberries with you,'" Kennedy said with a laugh.

Shannahan said he and his family are extremely grateful to all the searchers who came to his aid, especially in deep woods in very hot and humid conditions. Being reunited with his family was a relief.

"You never believe how much people love you, think about you and worry about you," said Shannahan. "It's just wonderful."

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