A family of four from Oregon was found safe Wednesday after officials say they may have gotten lost on purpose in northern B.C.
The search for Jeffery Phan, 24, Michelle Lesaca, 24, and two children, Satana, 3, and Satan, 2, began early Wednesday morning after their vehicle, a black 2018 Toyota Yaris, was found two days earlier near Highway 37 near Dease Lake.
A sign had been left on the car, saying the driver had left to find fuel.
A large search of the area was launched along the route the family was believed to have taken after they entered Canada June 9 at the Rooseville crossing near Fernie.
The four were spotted by a PEP Air air unit in the backcountry on Wednesday afternoon.
“They are safe and in care of police to make sure they’re good and healthy, which they are,” said Terrace Search and Rescue vice president Dave Jephson. “It’s an excellent outcome. I did not expect this outcome at all, to have four alive individuals. We’re very happy.”
In a strange turn, Jephson said the SAR team’s experience with the family indicates they had intentionally gone into the wilderness and did not want to be found.
Upon landing near the site where the family was spotted, crews could not find any visual or audible clues to their whereabouts. Search teams were forced into an aggressive search patrol to locate and confirm their identities.
“Who knows why?” Jephson said. “I think they were out there in intentionally to … live with God in the forest. I have no idea.”
RCMP learned the family had planned to travel to the Philippines on May 25, but later cancelled their flight at the airport in Portland, Ore., just prior to boarding.
Police do not yet know the family’s citizenship status, nor why they crossed into Canada. There is no criminal investigation and an RCMP spokesperson said the family is being supported by, “many partner agencies to help them get to their destination.”
Search and rescue teams from Smithers and Stewart also contributed to finding the family.