Quesnel Search and Rescue (QSR) were called to help Prince George Search and Rescue locate an autistic youth who was reported missing in the Hixon area on Saturday, June 6.
Members of the Quesnel Search and Rescue team were taking part in an overnight training exercise near the Deep Creek Trailhead when they received and responded to a mutual aid request call from Prince George Search and Rescue and Emergency Management B.C.
“We sent five members directly up to the Hixon area that evening to get a lay of the land and the rest of the group went home so that we could get busy the following morning at 6:30 a.m.,” said Bob Zimmerman, president of QSR.
Zimmerman was among the five QSR members who aided in the search on Saturday evening, and says his team were able to find evidence of where the missing youth had been and may have been headed.
“For the group of five of us that went up right away Saturday evening, three of them were a tracking team and two of us were search management,” said Zimmerman. “The tracking team, they were sent out to start checking in the area and they did find sign of where the youth had been walking at one point – that gave us the direction of where the youth might be heading, towards Terry Creek or south of Terry Creek.”
With that information QSR decided to set up a command post south of Terry Creek where their trackers could continue the search on Sunday morning while Prince George Search and Rescue set up a command post where the missing youth had last been seen.
On Sunday morning as 11 members of the QSR along with members of the Williams Lake Search and Rescue team were heading up to Hixon to continue the search, they received some good news, the missing youth had returned to their home safe and sound.
“The next morning when we were all heading up the road is when we got the word that the youth had walked back into their house, no shoes, no socks and soaking wet so we were stood down,” said Zimmerman.
Zimmerman says that the challenges of a search and rescue operation involving an autistic individual along with weather conditions added to the urgency and difficulty of the search.
“When you end up sending teams out to do line searches you have to have real close proximity because you have to see everything, you can’t depend on a [autistic] subject calling out or calling back to you when you’re calling them because they may be hiding or afraid or whatever the case may be so it really increases the requirement for manpower to be able to cover ground,” said Zimmerman. “Just the fact that we were talking about a youth and with the weather conditions, the threat of hypothermia with the cold and the wet, we wanted to respond as quickly as possible.”