Search and rescue volunteers from Cowichan to Parksville, including six from Ladysmith, spent night of Jan. 8 and part of Jan. 9 looking for three people in the Nanaimo Lakes Road area.
About 30 volunteers combed a search area of about 100 square kilometres to no avail, said Kevin McNeill, president of Nanaimo Search and Rescue.
Although a full search effort was launched. some of the information they received from the call for help didn’t make sense or check out, McNeill added.
“The names that were given didn’t pan out,” said McNeill. “If there’s no missing person’s report filed, we have to assume it was either a mistake or a prank.”
A driver with Emcon Services Inc. received a call for help over the company’s private radio frequency around 8 p.m. Saturday from three people – two males and a female – who said they were riding around on two ATVs in the Nanaimo Lakes Road area and one of the males had a broken leg.
The callers told the driver they had parked their truck between First Lake and Second Lake and the female was walking back towards the truck. After the initial call, no one was able to get back in touch with them. The driver called 911 and search and rescue teams from Cowichan, Ladysmith, Nanaimo and Arrowsmith were called.
McNeill said police determined that the names given by the callers were false – the one person they found who matched one of the names was safe at home in Kamloops.
Search teams were unable to find the truck and no one showed up at the hospital with a broken leg Sunday.
Some of the volunteers went almost to the top of Mount Benson, McNeill added, and all the while it was snowing – the higher elevations got about eight inches by 2 a.m. The search went from about 9 p.m. until 5:30 a.m.
He said perhaps some of the information was wrong, although the people were very specific about where they were when they spoke to the Emcon driver, and why the people didn’t just drive back to the truck on their ATVs is another question that was never answered.
“When you look at it in hindsight, it doesn’t make a lot of sense,” said McNeill. “But you can’t just say, ‘That doesn’t make any sense, we’re not going.’”