South Cariboo Search and Rescue (SCSAR) members provided assistance in looking for a missing 15-year-old autistic girl on June 16.
SCSAR search manager James Seeley says nine local volunteers with four ATVs joined several other teams, including Kamloops SAR (KSAR) and RCMP members, Robson Valley SAR, Barriere SAR and Wells Gray SAR (WGSAR) members searching for the runaway teen about 50 kilometres north of Clearwater.
The rescue teams, totalling about 40 volunteers and two canines, attempted to track the girl’s location in a very remote area surrounding a 150-acre ranch on the east side of the Thompson River, Seeley explains.
“She had been missing about 24 hours.”
The call for mutual aid came in about 2 p.m. and SCSAR was on site around 6 p.m., after mustering and gathering equipment while other teams contained the situation.
“They had containment on the ends of the access roads in and out, and they had teams already working quads on the bush trails and remote forestry trails.”
The WGSAR and Kamloops RCMP both had trained search dogs deployed to help find the missing teen, he adds.
Upon SCSAR’s arrival, Seeley was assigned to co-command Phase 2 operations along with WGSAR search manager Ryan McClarty.
Seeley explains after searching until about 11 p.m., when it started to get really dark, a plan was needed for overnight operations and actions to be taken at first light.
“We were going to bring in an RCMP helicopter with forward-looking infrared. We were going to bring back the dog team. We were going to bring in trackers, that whole thing.”
However, Seeley says he first asked the KSAR dog handler to do one last sweep of the ranch’s farmhouse, in case the girl had returned for food or something else and was hiding there.
“The dog alerted and they spotted her, and she ran back off in the bush.
“So, we knew that she was fine, and it now became an RCMP/[Ministry of Health] issue. At that point we demobilized, at approximately midnight.”
The SCSAR search manager notes it becomes difficult or impossible to successfully continue operations when someone doesn’t want to be found, as was clearly the case with this runaway teen, who was described by family as being competent and comfortable in the bush.
On June 20, seven members of SCSAR assisted 17 Central Cariboo Search and Rescue members and a dog handler from KSAR when three teens were reported missing at 8:47 p.m on June 19, after hiking in forest the near Wildwood in the Williams Lake area.
The teens, aged 15, 16 and 18, were located safe and sound the next morning (June 20) after spending the night in the backwoods.