RENO, Nev. -- Six months after she was found on the verge of starvation in a van in the Nevada wilderness, a Canadian woman wants to know what happened to her husband after he walked out for help.
Rita Chretien of Penticton, British Columbia, has asked Elko County sheriff's officials to conduct another search near the Nevada-Idaho border for 59-year-old Albert Chretien before snowfall arrives, said Hannah Hyland, a friend and neighbor of the couple.
While an Oct. 22 search turned up no trace of him, Rita Chretien and other family members are hopeful an expanded search of the remote, rugged mountains of northeastern Nevada will yield clues and closure, Hyland said. Albert Chretien hasn't been seen since he set out on foot in search of help on March 22, three days after the couple's van got stuck on a muddy road.
Rita Chretien, 56, stayed with the van, surviving for seven weeks on trail mix, hard candy and water from a nearby stream until a group of hunters spotted her May 6. A devout Christian, she credited her faith for survival.
Rita has peace already and believes that either way, whether he has preceded her (in death) or whether he's still alive, he's in the care of our heavenly father, and that's her comfort, Hyland told The Associated Press.
But peace is not the same thing as closure. She would still like to know what happened to him, and she's in a waiting mode, Hyland added.
Sheriff Jim Pitts didn't immediately return a phone call Saturday. Sheriff's officials have conducted a string of intensive searches for Albert Chretien, including the one last week that involved the use of several cadaver dogs from Utah. They have said they believe he is dead, his remains scattered.
Sheriff's Lt. Adrienne Brensel said authorities have spent considerable time on the searches, and are disappointed there has been no closure.
I'm not aware of any other planned searches, Brensel said. That doesn't mean we're not open to another search if we get more evidence we can find something.
Family and friends are pleased that sheriff's officials haven't given up, and hope other areas can be searched as well, Hyland said.
Brensel said authorities remained hopeful a hunter or hiker stumbles on evidence. Usually that's what happens in such vast country, she added.
Albert Chretien set out with a cell phone and GPS unit for Mountain City, a couple of day's journey from the van, Hyland said. That route (to Mountain City) is initially what searchers had gone over thoroughly, but he may not have been able to stay on that route, Hyland said. We think there are some other legitimate areas that can be investigated.
While it's unlikely he's still alive, family and friends don't rule out the possibility.
I know it's farfetched, but when you consider what happened to Rita, that's farfetched, too, Hyland said. Her stomach was shrunk to the size of a walnut when she was found. Supernatural care could have been over him, too.
The couple owns an excavating business and was headed to Las Vegas for a trade show when they drove onto the forest road.