The search for a Saanich woman thought to be lost overnight in Thetis Lake park has been called off after crews found no trace of the 67-year-old.
As of early Tuesday afternoon, one remaining Metchosin Search and Rescue volunteer team was hiking the remote McKenzie Creek trail and lake area, but emergency responders have dismantled the command centre and the park has reopened.
“There’s been nothing at all,” said Linda Hillard of Metchosin Search and Rescue. “It’s very discouraging. We’ve got no clues, no signs to her preference for a particular area. It makes searching very difficult.”
Maria Huyben parked at Thetis Lake sometime Monday morning and her car was slapped with a violation ticket at 11:31 a.m. Family members told police she was “distraught” and search and rescue teams were called in just after 6 p.m. last night. A purse was visible in the front seat of Huyben’s car.
Metchosin SAR and Capital Regional District parks teams hit the main trails around upper and lower Thetis lakes until 3 a.m. last night, calling her name and blowing whistles.
View Royal Fire Rescue, Langford Fire Rescue, West Shore RCMP, Saanich Search and Rescue and a Victoria police canine unit also supported the search effort.
Emergency crews found a few hours to grab a nap in cots in the parking lot and the search resumed at first light Tuesday morning.
Crews on land and in boats scoured the shorelines of upper and lower Thetis Lake, Prior Lake and Highland Road, and retraced main trails and hiked dozens of obscure unmarked trails. Search teams used GPS tracking to map out covered areas, mainly the southern reaches of the vast, 833 hectare park.
Huyben frequently walks and hikes the marked trails around Thetis Lake and is known to be a fit person. The weather was mild last night and the forest extremely dry, giving Huyben an excellent chance of surviving alone in the elements, if she was in the park.
Finding no sign of Huyben is distressing for her family and for search crews, Hillard said.
“I’ve been at this a long time and it’s never easy,” she said. “It’s hard on the whole team. They take this stuff very personally.”
An extensive search over 18 hours involving dozens of volunteers yielded no clues either way as to the fate of Huyben, and the operation wrapped up around noon. RCMP released Huyben’s car to her relatives.
West Shore RCMP say the case has been handed to Saanich police as a missing person file.
“It is very unfortunate, we really feel for the family,” said CRD parks manager Janette Loveys. “We had hoped for some news.”
Anyone with information concerning this missing person can contact the West Shore RCMP detachment at 250-474-2264 or Crimestoppers at 250-386-TIPS (8477).