Terrace Search and Rescue members Jon Coutts and Ryan Bougie prepare to leave Terrace for Watson Lake to assist in the aerial search, which was key in leading the family to the lake to be spotted by the ground team. Terrace Search and Rescue members Jon Coutts and Ryan Bougie prepare to leave Terrace for Watson Lake to assist in the aerial search, which was key in leading the family to the lake to be spotted by the ground team.

Searchers rush to find missing hikers with one-year-old child

Family out overnight in cold near Watson Lake

The family member of three people at the centre of a search and rescue two weeks ago wants the public to know that the parents in that situation did exactly as they should.

Search and rescue went looking for a couple and their one-year-old daughter near Watson Lakes (about 55 km east of Terrace), Oct. 12.

Carla Gillis, mother and grandmother to the missing trio, says the story was covered by this newspaper online, and since then, the young family has received a barrage of negative comments on social media. She says the family was not mushroom picking, as originally reported, but hiking in an area they knew well. She adds they don’t deserve the negativity because they acted responsibly and expertly.

The family went for a quick hike up the mountain trail but on their way back down were startled by two large dogs, which scared their own smaller dog into the woods. They turned off their planned route to search for their pet, Gillis said, adding it’s easy to get turned around fast in that area.

When it started to get dark, the parents decided to stop for the night for safety reasons. They could see Highway 16 and the Skeena River but had decided not to risk getting lost in the fading light. They fed the baby their food and water, while the couple ate mushrooms and drank creek water, she added.

Gillis noticed they were missing at 6 p.m. but thought they may have just been out longer than expected. She waited until 10:30 p.m. before she called police.

The hiker’s family members went out searching in four teams from Shames Mountain, Copper Mountain to White Bottom, Gillis says, and were on their way out to Kitwanga when police found the couple’s truck at 3:30 a.m. Police called search and rescue, says Gillis.

As the Standard reported, immediate concerns over the welfare of the young child propelled SAR, when called at 5 a.m., to ensure the search was conducted immediately.

Teams were sent out to the area as soon as possible.

Lighting the area with headlamps and flashlights, two SAR teams and an RCMP dog search team hurried to conduct a trail ground-sweep using whistle blasts and other sound-attracting techniques.

As daylight approached, additional searchers, a SAR Mobile Command Post and air support joined the search effort. The SAR team soon spotted smoke at the far west end of Watson Lakes and then two individuals.

Gillis said her daughter and son-in-law at the time were planning a route to get back when a search helicopter showed up and took them to the highway where family was waiting.

The family was assessed to be in good condition and returned home.

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