Stranded B.C. woman 'doing remarkably well'

A Penticton, B.C., woman who was found alive in remote Nevada after being stranded for seven weeks is "doing remarkably well" and expected to make a full recovery.

Rescue teams in remote Nevada area resume search for missing husband

A Penticton, B.C., woman who was found alive in remote Nevada after being stranded for seven weeks is "doing remarkably well" and expected to make a full recovery.

Speaking to reporters on Saturday, Ken Dey — a spokesperson for St. Luke's hospital in Twin Falls, Idaho, — said the prognosis for Rita Chretien, 56, is good.

"Rita, right now, remains in fair condition and the physicians treating her say she's doing remarkably well. She's had a small meal and is recovering well. Her outlook is very positive at this point," he said.

"The doctors are very confident about a full recovery at this point."

Albert Chretien, 59, is still missing after his wife, Rita Chretien, 56, of Penticton, B.C., was found alive Friday in Nevada. (RCMP)

Rita and Albert Chretien, 59, were on their way to a trade show in Las Vegas when their 2000 Chevrolet Astro became stuck in mud on a logging road in Elko County in northeastern Nevada. They were last seen March 19 buying items at a gas station in Baker City, Ore.

On March 22, Albert Chretien set out on foot for help with a global positioning system. He told his wife he was walking to a state highway to try to find help. He hasn't been seen since.

Hunters found Rita Chretien in the van on Friday afternoon. She was conscious and able to speak when she was found.

Dey said it is not clear how long she will be in hospital, but doctors say she is very upbeat.

"What's next? The family will be coming in, obviously. They have asked and want to thank everybody for everyone's prayers and thoughts in her recovery," he said.

In a written statement, Rita's family said they were "overjoyed" she was found alive.

"We had all come to believe that they would not be found alive so this news came as a complete surprise," daughter-in-law Beth Dickinson Chretien said.

"We are extremely grateful for the thousands of prayers from literally around the world on our behalf. We have been covered with the peace that only God can give over the past seven weeks."

While the details of Rita Chretien's ordeal over the past seven weeks are not clear, Twin Falls police spokesperson Luke Allen said she told her story to one of his detectives.

"She was sleeping, in and out of sleep for most of the trip. She woke up. They were then on a dirt road headed to some highway she thought was a short cut. They kept getting stuck. For two days they were getting stuck in their vehicle over and over again," he said.

Family friend Dave Goertzen said that fits with what he knew of the couple.

"He [Albert] was an adventurer in the sense that he liked to explore when they were out driving sometimes ... they would explore areas."

Rita survived by eating what little trail mix and other food she had, then kept herself alive eating melted snow, her son Raymond Chretien told the Oregonian newspaper.

She lost about 30 pounds during the nearly 50 days she spent alone before a pair of ATV riders found her. When they gave her food, she vomited it up.

Chretien felt she was two or three days from death before she was rescued, according to her son.

Goertzen said Rita's return is the best Mother's Day gift the family could hope for, but said questions remain.

"Where's Al? What's happened to him? Are they going to find him? Are we going to have a second miracle? That would be the best, most exciting weekend we could have in our lives," he said.

Recent survival stories 

Feb. 14, 2011: A 15-year-old Inuit boy is recovering in a Montreal hospital and risks losing some of his toes from frostbite after he and a friend were lost on the tundra in northern Quebec for four days.

Aug. 28, 2009: A British documentary filmmaker who had hoped to rough it out in the Yukon wilderness for three months called for an emergency evacuation  seven weeks into the experiment.

Ed Wardle, 34, said that while he felt he had enough food on hand, "I've lost a lot of weight recently. I took my pulse, my heart rate, last night and I stand in the high 20s. Normally at home, it would be up in the high 40s. I think that means my metabolism has slowed right down because I'm not getting enough food."

Feb. 26, 2009: A Montreal couple lost in the B.C. backcountry for nine days ate leaves, built shelters and, fearing an attack by nearby wolves, turned a ski pole into a weapon, all in a bid to stay alive.

Marie-Josée Fortin, 44, died before help arrived. Her husband, Gilles Blackburn, 51, was treated for frostbite and exposure and released from hospital on Wednesday, just 24 hours after flagging down the helicopter that rescued him.

Goertzen said he believes Albert Chretien likely would have tried to stay on the road, but acknowledged people sometimes do strange things when under stress.

"He would do anything for her, and probably thinking it was the best to go out and get help for her sake was probably why he went," he said. "I mean, that's the type of person he is."

Search restarted in rugged terrain

Based on that information, rescue teams relaunched the search by air and ground for Albert Chretien, but heavy rain on Saturday was making the work difficult.

Previous efforts focused areas in southeastern Oregon, where the couple, who own an excavating company, had last been seen on March 19 at a gas station.

On Saturday, teams began searching in Elko County and Owyhee County, Idaho. The Chretiens' van was found near the Nevada portion of the Bruneau River and the town of Rowland.

Officials said weather over the past month in that area has included snow, rain and chilly temperatures, and a road near the Bruneau River saw a large landslide in early April.

"I don't believe they were prepared for winter weather," the couple's son told the Oregonian. "They don't go camping."


  • An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated Owyhee County is in Nevada. In fact, it is in Idaho.
    May 07, 2011 9:00 AM ET

With files from The Associated Press