An intensive search of the rugged northern Nevada region where Penticton’s Albert Chretien was last seen alive is over for now.
Sgt. Kevin McKinney of the Elko County Sheriff’s Department said Tuesday the decision to end the efforts by nearly 200 people was difficult, but with no results officials had little choice.
“It was pretty much because we’ve exhausted all leads at this point and have come up with no results,” said McKinney. “We’re at the point where everything has been searched that could be searched and all we have left are areas that are covered with snow. We had a blizzard up there Sunday so now we’re going to have to wait until that melts.”
Efforts to find Albert, 59, were concentrated in the area of a remote forest service road near the Nevada and Idaho border after his wife, 56-year-old Rita, was found alive in the couple’s van seven weeks after they had been reported missing.
Albert left on foot to go and get help when the vehicle became stuck after they took a wrong turn while on their way to Las Vegas for a business convention.
According to McKinney, in the week following the Penticton woman’s discovery an estimated 300 square miles of territory was scoured from the air and ground.
“That’s over 1,500 man hours by volunteers and others without a sign, which gets very frustrating,” said the officer. “We just regret we weren’t able to provide the family with a definitive answer.”
He added with the length of time that has passed, another miracle like the one involving Rita is unlikely and the next effort will be more of a recovery mission.
For her part Rita survived on trail mix and was forced to eventually melt snow for water until she was found by a couple searching for antlers. She was taken to a hospital in Twin Falls, Idaho and later transferred to Penticton Regional Hospital from which she was released last week. Those who have spoken with Rita in person say she is doing well physically and emotionally considering the circumstances.
Late last week her son Raymond issued a statement on behalf of the family thanking God for his mother’s “miraculous discovery and improving health” and for the general outpouring of support and well wishes from friends, relatives and the public.
He also reiterated the family’s wishes for privacy at this time and a decision about when and if the entire story will be told has not yet been made.