Missing pair found in B.C.’s backcountry after writing ‘help’ in snow

Two people reported missing in B.C.’s backcountry were found safe Thursday afternoon thanks to an SOS message they carved in the snow, which was spotted by a rescue aircraft.

Catherine Gibbons, 22, and Damon Brodeur, 24, spent five nights in the cold of B.C.’s Columbia Valley in southeastern B.C. after their car-camping trip went awry.

Steve Talsma, search manager with Columbia Valley Search and Rescue, said the pair took crucial steps that helped them be found.

“They put out an orange tarp, or blanket, and had written ‘help’ in the snow and also drew an arrow to where they were,” said Steve Talsma, search manager with Columbia Valley Search and Rescue.

Their vehicle, a silver SUV with a roof rack, could also be seen from above by a rescue aircraft.

Found cabin

The pair had been reported missing to RCMP on Wednesday, after concerned family members hadn’t heard from them for nearly a week.

Talsma said the pair had been planning to camp and explore some backcountry roads near Invermere, B.C., near the Alberta border, when their car got stuck on a snowy slope.

Gibbons and Brodeur spent the first few nights sleeping in the vehicle before finding a nearby cabin, which provided shelter and they could build a fire, according to Talsma.

They were well-supplied with extra clothing and food, Talsma said, which helped them survive until they were found.

On Thursday afternoon, search and rescue crews in an aircraft spotted their vehicle and makeshift SOS message.

By late afternoon, they were back safe in Invermere.

“It worked out this time but if they weren’t prepared and the cabin wasn’t nearby, it might have had a different outcome,” Talsma said.

He urged adventure-seekers to leave a detailed plan with friends or family before heading out — even for a road trip.

“Making sure that people are aware of your plans and intentions and when you expect to be back might shorten the time frame [for a rescue],” he said.

“Especially this time of year with the roads being in the condition that they are with the snow.”


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