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Penticton family stunned Chretien was found after seven weeks

Missing for seven weeks in the Nevada wilderness Rita Chretien kept a journal after her husband walked away to find help.

RCMP Cpl. Dan Moskaluk said she decided to document her days just in case something bad happened so family, friends and whoever found her would know exactly what had occurred.

"Certainly this is very bittersweet for the family that they received tremendous news that somebody was found alive after seven weeks of being in this wilderness situation, but on the other hand again it still weights heavily on their minds the fact that Al Chretien's whereabouts are currently unknown," said Moskaluk at a press conference on Saturday afternoon.

It is still not known how Rita Chretien and her husband Al Chretien ended up on a forest service road in Nevada. But, the fact she is alive after missing for so long is nothing short of a miracle.

"At this time search efforts are being conducted in attempts to locate Al. Certainly though, given that seven weeks has elapsed here and none of us be it family or investigators would have thought that we would be reporting of actually finding somebody alive," said Moskaluk. "Until we know exactly what has happened to Al Chretien, it still remains a mystery."

Rita Chretien was air-lifted to a hospital in Twin Falls, Idaho and Moskaluk said her son Raymond Chretien was expected to arrive there late Saturday.

"We're stunned," Raymond Chretien told The Oregonian. "We haven't fully digested it. This is a miracle."

He told the newspaper that his mother immediately apologized.

"She felt extremely bad for us all," Raymond Chretien told The Oregonian. "She was extremely apologetic."

The 56-year-old woman is believed to have lost about 20 to 30 pounds over the seven weeks she was missing.

"Rita was in good enough health and conscious to speak with her rescuers ... Raymond spoke with his mother on the phone yesterday evening. Raymond related in his own words that he felt great comfort to hear her demenour on the telephone stating that she certainly sounded very much like herself and that given the situation, of course a very emotional conversation, found that certainly she sounded better than you would expect," said Moskaluk. "Essentially she survived on water and melted snow. In the vehicle they were travelling in they had small amounts of trail mix, so essentially just travel snacks sustained her for those seven weeks."

Moskaluk confirmed that after three days of being stuck on the forest service road, Al Chretien decided to summons help and walked away from their stranded vehicle and his wife.

The couple had left on a business trip to Las Vegas from Penticton on March 19. The last person they had contact with was by cell phone right before crossing the Osoyoos border and when they didn't show up to work when expected, family and friends knew something was wrong. RCMP, in co-operation with the Oregon State Police turned up video at a Baker City, Oregon convenience store that confirmed the couple had been in there around 2:45 p.m. on March 19. It was the last time they were seen alive and the last debit transaction they had. After searching six counties RCMP said they had to scale back efforts because a tip line established was starting to dry up. Then, on May 6 a group of hunters stumbled upon a weakened but still surviving Rita Chretien with the Chevy Astro van the couple had been travelling in about 20 miles onto the forestry service road near Elko County, Nevada.

"The Chretiens left Baker City, made their way down on Highway 51, veered off the highway and then the vehicle became stuck," said Moskaluk, adding they were both uninjured at the time.

Moskaluk said police have confirmed the couple did purchase a new GPS device but did not know at this time if the equipment had taken the Chretiens off course.

Weather conditions in the area Rita Chretien was found has stymied aerial searches today, but a group of approximately 20 individuals have taken to foot and ATV vehicles to search for her husband. A search dog is also being utilized amongst the team.

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