Family hails ‘miracle’ after Chemainus woman missing for five days found alive and well

A woman who was missing in the woods near Copper Canyon for six days has been found alive and is recovering in Nanaimo.

A woman who was missing in the woods near Copper Canyon for six days has been found alive and is recovering in Nanaimo.

Irene Paquet, 67, was reported missing on July 30, having been last seen the day before, leaving the Cowichan Neighbourhood House in Chemainus where she is a volunteer. It was not until the following Thursday, Aug. 4, in the afternoon that she was located by search and rescue teams and airlifted to Nanaimo for treatment.

Paquet’s daughter, Celeste, said the family is doing fine now that’s Paquet has been located, and that they are all very thankful and relieved.

“It’s a miracle. Just an amazing miracle,” she said. “She was out there for six complete days, five nights, and it’s just amazing. A miracle that she survived out there for that long.”

As of Friday, Paquet was still in hospital in Nanaimo. Her daughter said given all she’s been through, she’s doing surprisingly well.

“She’s disoriented and very weak and very dehydrated but she’s communicating with us and shockingly better than anticipated,” Celeste said.

Paquet was found about two kilometres from her vehicle, which had been parked off to the side of a road. She had reportedly gone for a hike after leaving a shift at Cowichan Neighbourhood House the previous Friday. Arlene Robinson, a spokeswoman for CNH, said the organization immediately put out a notice on their Facebook page when Paquet was reported missing.

“We’re so relieved and so thankful. We got over 32,000 hits on our Cowichan Neighbourhood House Facebook page,” said Robinson.

One of those people who noticed the posting was Chad Bergman of Lake Cowichan, who was out dirt biking the area trails starting in Youbou when he came upon Paquet’s white Hyundai Accent and immediately stopped to investigate further.

“Chad said he saw it,” Robinson said. “And then when he was out there he saw the car and took a picture and sent it in to us and said, ‘Is this her car?’ And we and her son and her daughter and everybody said, ‘Yes! That’s her car!'”

Shauneen Nichols, search manager working with the Ladysmith Search and Rescue, said in cases like this, the missing person is not likely to be very far from their vehicle.

“We just start searching from the car. We have human trackers — extremely, extremely good trackers — we will put around the car first and get what’s called a direction of travel. That way we know which direction she’s headed,” said Nichols.

Also aiding in the search for Paquet was Cowichan Search and Rescue, search aircraft, Cowichan Valley Amateur Radio Association, and the RCMP (including a K-9 unit). The searchers began Wednesday evening as soon as the vehicle was located.

“You know what this valley is like and the fact that her car was missing — until we can find that car, a starting point, we wouldn’t know where too begin in such a vast area,” said Nichols.

She emphasizes the commendable action taken by Bergman.

“The fact that that young man had the presence of mind to not only stop, check that vehicle out, take pictures and then turn right around and report that… His recollection was excellent and he got us to that starting point,” she said.

Nichols said the public’s vigilance goes a long way to creating positive outcomes like this.