Miraculous discovery brings relief to Chretien family and friends

Penticton’s Rita Chretien survived for seven weeks in the Nevada wilderness

Pastor Neil Allenbrand of the Penticton Church of the Nazarene holds a photograph of congregation members Albert and Rita Chretien. Other parishioners celebrated at Sunday’s services after word of Rita’s rescue was announced earlier. The search for Albert is continuing.

Pastor Neil Allenbrand of the Penticton Church of the Nazarene holds a photograph of congregation members Albert and Rita Chretien. Other parishioners celebrated at Sunday’s services after word of Rita’s rescue was announced earlier. The search for Albert is continuing.

After missing for seven weeks, Rita Chretien knew she was coming to a fork of life or death the day leading up to her rescue.

“She had a very clear indication there would be something on Friday, whether it was to go home to be with her saviour or be rescued, and it was to be rescued,” said her son Raymond Chretien at a press conference from St. Luke’s hospital in Twin Falls, Idaho where his mom is recovering.

“I think what the doctors said about her only having a couple of days, she was feeling that as well. It could be any moment where that if the rescuers weren’t there she wouldn’t be making it. I think a lot of it was mental preparation just getting to that point and being at peace about it either way.”

The 56-year-old woman who was found by hunters on Friday after being reported missing since March 19 when she left Penticton with her husband Al Chretien to attend a business convention in Las Vegas, survived on her faith and by rationing what little food and vitamins she had. The rescuers found Rita on a remote forestry service road near the Idaho and Nevada border.

“She was resting and she heard a noise and she bolted up. She was in the van, she stepped on the side sill on the van because she didn’t have any shoes on at that point and was waving at them. I don’t think they realized who she was and she had no idea people would know who she was. She convinced them she needed help and they went and got help for her,” said Raymond.

The question was asked just how did the couple end up on a remote forestry service road?

“It is to our understanding they took a few wrong turns. They wanted to take a scenic route and they ended up on a road that the map led them to believe, rightly or wrongly, was a much safer road than it was,” said Raymond.

Video footage from a convenience store showed the couple had travelled as far as Baker City, Oregon on March 19, but that was the last physical evidence police had. The Chretiens actually kept driving about five hours until they ended up on the forest service road and their Chevy Astro Van became stuck.

Three days later, on March 22, Al decided he would take their GPS and try and track his way back to a populated area to find help. It was the last time Rita saw him. Her son believed it to be about a 27-mile walk. Elko County Sheriff’s office and Owyhee County Sheriff’s office are continuing their search for Al. Ground crews are scouring the area where they found Rita, but aerial searches have been postponed due to bad weather.

It is believed Rita will make a full recovery and doctors from St. Luke’s said they do not see long-term kidney or liver issues right now.

“I would say that it might be a matter of days, maybe less,” said Dr. James Westberry of how long the woman had before she would have died in the wilderness.

“She obviously had the mindset of survival and that must have been something which helped her go as long as she has. Not giving up is the most important thing and everything else has to stem from that. I’m so thankful she had the spiritual base to keep going in the face of what for most people would be overwhelming odds.”

As of Tuesday, St. Luke’s upgraded Rita’s condition to good. Physicians treating her indicated she is enjoying solid foods, continues physical therapy and her spirits are high. The medical team is watching her closely, but indicators of her recovery are very good. Discharge details have not been confirmed at this time.

Raymond said his mom made the right choices in rationing the small amount of trail mix, that lasted her a week by eating a tablespoon a day, taking a few fish oil pills a day, having a hard candy a day and consuming the melted snow.

“We were praying for a miracle and boy did we get one. We got the biggest miracle we could have ever asked for and there is still one more to come in, so we are still praying for another one and the search continues for my father,” said Raymond.

It was a bittersweet Mother’s Day said Raymond, who believes his mom’s faith kept her alive.

“She is an amazing person, she is a giving person. It’s so hard to find words to describe her in the way I feel about her. She is genuine, she cares about people. I don’t know what to say, she is just amazing,” said Raymond.

Rita told him she read the Bible everyday, read other books she had a couple times over, took walks, kept a journal of her days and rested.

Handwritten notes by Rita, shown in photos from the sheriff’s department, were found in her van. They include the GPS reading of the location they were stuck at and states they had no cell service. It also reads Al took the GPS with him. Another note reads, “No food. No gas. Dead (battery). Lost my way!” Space on the piece of paper was running out and in smaller writing it reads “Al went to get help. Find Mountain City. Did not return!” with the last line reading “Maybe died along the way?”



Just Posted

It's believed the Sacred Hearts church on PIB land burned Sunday night. (Aileen Mascasaet Maningas)
UPDATE: Two churches on band land in South Okanagan burn to the ground

Sacred Hearts church on Penticton Indian Band land was reduced to rubble

The Coquihalla Lakes washroom is getting upgrades. (Submitted)
Okanagan Connector to get upgrades to aging washrooms

The Ministry of Transportation recently announced $1 million in funding for the upgrades

People at the beach in front of Discovery Bay Resort on Tuesday, July 14. (Michael Rodriguez - Capital News)
Heat wave forecast for Okanagan-Shuswap

Temperatures are forecast to hit record breaking highs this week

James Miller, the managing editor at the Penticton Herald, celebrates his win with his dog Milo after finding out he was elected as city councillor in Saturday night’s by-election. (Submitted)
Penticton’s newly elected city councillor explains how he can be both editor and politician

James Miller picked up a third of the votes in Saturday’s by-election

FILE – Perry Bellegarde, National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations, takes part in an event on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Tuesday, July 7, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Indigenous Peoples Day must be a ‘call to action’, says Assembly of First Nations chief

Discovery of children at Kamloops residential school site must lead to change, Perry Bellegarde says

Marco Mendicino, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship during a press conference in Ottawa on Thursday, May 13, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Canada to welcome 45,000 refugees this year, says immigration minister

Canada plans to increase persons admitted from 23,500 to 45,000 and expedite permanent residency applications

The Crofton trailer park home where the bodies of two people were found. (Photo by Don Bodger)
Kelowna mom still waiting for answers after daughter and her fiance found dead

Pair discovered in their Vancouver Island home in May identified as Rachel Gardner and Paul Jenkins

Tony Costa/ Facebook
UPDATE: Out-of-control fire burning above Peachland

The blaze sparked on Sunday and is believed to be lightning caused

Tl’etinqox-lead ceremony at the site of the former St. Joseph’s Mission in Williams Lake, B.C., June 18, 2021. (Angie Mindus photo - Williams Lake Tribune)
‘We are all one people’: Honouring residential school victims and survivors

Love, support and curiousity: Canadians urged to learn about residential schools and their impact

Indigenous rights and climate activists gathered outside Liberty Mutual’s office in Vancouver to pressure the insurance giant to stop covering Trans Mountain. (Photo by Andrew Larigakis)
Activists work to ensure Trans Mountain won’t get insurance

Global campaign urging insurance providers to stay away from Canadian pipeline project

In the first election with public money replacing corporate or union donations, B.C. Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson, B.C. Greens leader Sonia Furstenau and B.C. NDP leader John Horgan take part in election debate at the University of B.C., Oct. 13, 2020. (THE CANADIAN PRESS)
B.C. MLAs ponder 2022 ‘sunset’ of subsidy for political parties

NDP, B.C. Fed call for increase, B.C. Liberals have no comment

Investigators use a bucket to help recover human remains at a home burned in the Camp fire, Thursday, Nov. 15, 2018, in Magalia, Calif. Many of the missing in the deadly Northern California wildfire are elderly residents in Magalia, a forested town of about 11,000 north of the destroyed town of Paradise. (AP Photo/John Locher)
‘Forever War’ with fire has California battling forests instead

Five of the state’s largest-ever blazes seared California last year, as authorities tackle prevention

Tokyo 2020 President Seiko Hashimoto and IOC President Thomas Bach, on a screen, speak during a five=party online meeting at Harumi Island Triton Square Tower Y in Tokyo Monday, June 21, 2021. The Tokyo Olympics will allow some local fans to attend when the games open in just over a month, Tokyo organizing committee officials and the IOC said on Monday. (Rodrigo Reyes Marin/Pool Photo via AP)
Tokyo Olympics to allow Japanese fans only, with strict limits

Organizers set a limit of 50% capacity — up to a maximum of 10,000 fans

Most Read