The cost of the search and rescue of a Northern Ontario couple lost in the Cathedral Lakes area could be in excess of $100,000.
Lynne Carmody and Rick Moynan from North Bay, Ontario went missing Sunday, June 21 when they failed to return to the lodge where they were staying after what was supposed to be just a day hike.
The couple was found a week later relatively unscathed with just bug bites, cuts and bruises from walking through underbrush and dehydrated. They received medical attention at Penticton hospital and were released.
After a week of searching, Carmody and Moynan surfaced not far from the lodge.
“What we believe is Saturday they had seen us pulling search teams out of the forrest,” Paul Barry, one of the search manager’s said during an interview Monday. “They could see the rescuers. They were in such close proximity they could see the colour of the rope. They tried to yell but at that point couldn’t be heard. They knew they were too far down the hill to be seen. They determined they needed to make themselves more visible to be found.”
The pair left the lodge with just a bagged lunch, which was gone within the first 24 hours. It’s unknown at this point what if anything they ate while they were missing.
When the couple realized they were disoriented they made a lean-to shelter near a creek so they had access to fresh water.
During the search teams from 19 search and rescue organizations throughout the province helped scour more than 200 kilometres of forrest.
The crews at times included ground crews, RCMP K-9 units and five helicopters.
Although Barry was unable to provide a definite dollar figure he acknowledged the search for the hikers was a costly one.
“Just for an idea, a helicopter is $1,500 an hour. If you consider on Saturday we had four civilian helicopters and one RCMP helicopter in the air and each one was going from dawn till dusk… just that day alone was a big ticket item,” he said.
In addition to helicopters, more than 40 search and rescue personnel worked to find the couple with tools including infra red devices.
Despite the amount of resources dedicated to the search, hope was dwindling in the day and hours before the couple reappeared.
Family members had arrived to the area at the start of this past weekend and the harsh reality was explained.
“We had met with the family Saturday initially to begin talking about the realities…. They were told the scope of the search and that at that point no clues had been discovered. It was agreed with everyone that if nothing further was found by the end of day Sunday that the search would be suspended and that there would only be limited searches through helicopter but not through the ground,” he said.
The family was then taken to one of the most beautiful views in the park to say their goodbyes.
“At that point the call had come in that they were found safe,” he said. “They are very lucky.”
Barry said this particular incident isn’t the longest someone has been missing in the backcountry but it is considered lengthy.
“Certainly people have survived longer but the reality is many people lost in the backcountry succumb within the first 24 to 48 hours,” he said.
The number of people that go missing in BC per year is greater than all other provinces combined. Barry said about 1,800 searches take place each year.
“BC is beautiful and we have vast wilderness areas that we want people to travel in and explore parks but we want them to do so wisely with proper training. People need to file a trip plan and stick to it. Unless you are highly skilled with a map and compass and GPS just stick to the trails. Most importantly they should always go prepared for something to go wrong. They should always take the essentials for at least 24 hours.