KEREMEOS, B.C. – Search-and-rescue crews were shocked when an Ontario couple missing for seven days walked out of the backcountry in southern British Columbia.
Lynne Carmody, 61, and Rick Moynan, 59, of North Bay, Ont., turned up virtually unharmed on Sunday around 4 p.m., just hours before crews were going to call off the search for them.
“We had actually just finished meeting with the family and flying the family into the mountains to really have a last goodbye,” said Paul Berry of Comox Search and Rescue.
Carmody and Moynan were reported missing last week after going for a day hike in Cathedral Provincial Park in the South Okanagan Monday morning.
Crews launched a rescue operation after the pair failed to turn up that evening as planned at a park lodge where they were vacationing.
More than 300 people took part in the search effort, which involved 19 teams from across the province, as well as officials from B.C. Parks, the B.C. Ambulance Service and the RCMP. The search area covered more than 200 square kilometres.
“They’re dehydrated, pretty bug-bitten and bruised from all of the deadfall and rocks they had to crawl through,” said Berry on Sunday evening. “But otherwise they’re in surprisingly good condition.”
Berry said the pair built a shelter in a heavily wooded drainage basin and hunkered down to be rescued after becoming disoriented and realizing they were lost. But they escaped detection by rescue crews.
“They were in an area where, despite multiple flights by helicopter, by fixed-wing aircraft and searchers in close proximity, they were not able to be seen,” he said.
“Last night they were close enough they were actually able to see the colour of the rope we were using to extract teams out of the field by helicopter.”
The pair eventually left their shelter and stumbled across rescuers very close to where they started their hike a week earlier, said Berry.
He said their reappearance was very emotional for both rescue crews and the couple’s family.
The two were flown to hospital in Penticton, B.C., for a precautionary assessment.
Berry said the pair did well to stay put but emphasized that they were dangerously unprepared for their trek into the backcountry.
He encouraged hikers to carry proper navigational equipment and survival gear whenever they head into the bush.
“It’s a very, very good news story for them but they don’t all end like this when people go that unprepared into the backcountry,” said Berry.
— by Geordon Omand in Vancouver