A Fernie man was found on Saturday morning after spending the night in the woods in the Flathead River Valley, east of Fernie.
Garth McLeod, 67, was on a hunting trip and was separated from his group on Friday. Two researchers from the University of Alberta found McLeod in a distressed state on Saturday morning.
“He seemed pretty disoriented at the time. He was having difficulty walking in a straight line, having difficulty standing,” said Tyana Rudolfsen, a master student working on a thesis about the Flathead River Valley in a interview with The Free Press. “He was quite shocked that there even was a vehicle there. By the time he approached the vehicle, he was using it to prop himself up because he was having difficulty standing and he was having trouble formulating words and trying to communicate with us.”
Rudoflsen and her co-researcher Jonathon Ruppert later discovered that McLeod was in a pre-diabetic state and that his blood sugar was drastically low, after spending the night without any food or water. The two researchers drove McLeod back to his house in Fernie and stayed with him until he was in a stable state.
“His family wasn’t there at the time. We took him to his house because that is where he wanted to go and we were monitoring him and making sure we contacted search and rescue because his family was out in the flathead valley, helping with the search with the time,” said Rudolfsen.
A strong search and rescue mission was initiated after it was reported that McLeod was missing. Cat Robinson with Fernie Search and Resuce (SAR) said that roughly 20 people volunteered in the effort.
“We got called out at 3:30 on Friday afternoon. He was missing – he was supposed to meet up with friends from 10 a.m. so friends and family had been looking since then,” Robinson said.
Fifteen volunteers looked into the evening on Friday, stopping only because of the dark, and continued again on Saturday with 20 volunteers. “We also had some members from Elkford, from Sparwood and from Cranbrook helping us. They were all based out on the site,” said Robinson.
Along with the ground effort, an aerial search was also used in the attempt to locate McLeod. Helicopters were used to transport volunteers and SAR members along with search dogs to the search site, as it was quite a distance to get to. A small plane was also used in the search effort.
The search was called off when McLeod himself notified SAR that he was found safe, around 11:30 a.m. on Saturday. Robinson said that the search mission was looking roughly 12-kilometres away from where McLeod was found.
Rudoflsen said that she and Ruppert were very grateful that they were able to help, noting that it had a lot to do with chance. “Jonathon and I were just really pleased that we were able to help him out,” she said. “We are really reflecting on the fact that we were literally within about 50 to 100 metres of finding him or not at all. He was coming from a different direction that what we were. Had ne not come as far he had, even by about 100 metres, there is a good chance that we would have gone about our business, turned around and gone home and never been the wiser. We are really feeling fortunate that we were able to find him and give him the care that he needed at that time.”