The first people a missing B.C. teen saw when she emerged from a Golden Ears Park trail late Thursday were her parents, police say.
Esther Wang, 16, had been hiking with three other people through the Maple Ridge park on Tuesday.
The group made it to Steve’s lookout around 2:45 p.m. that day. However, when they headed back down to the campsite, after about 15 minutes of hiking, the group leader realized Wang was missing. They returned to the lookout to look for Wang but couldn’t find her. The leader headed to the trail entrance to notify a park ranger and police.
“Esther Wang has been located. She’s healthy, she is happy, and she’s with family. That is the best possible outcome for us,” said Supt. Int. Wendy Mehat during a press conference Friday.
Sixteen teams were involved in the search, from across the Fraser Valley and Lower Mainland, up the Sea to Sky corridor. Golden Ears Park is one of B.C.’s largest parks at more than 62,000 hectares.
Ridge Meadows RCMP told reporters Wang had walked out of East Canyon, the trailhead she had left on. Her parents were the first to greet her.
She was “very fatigued,” according to Mehat.
Ridge Meadows Search and Rescue was leading the search and said they stood down as of 8:30 p.m. on Thursday. Police said Wang walked out around 9:30 p.m., 54 hours after she went missing. She was assessed by BC Ambulance at the scene and released to her family shortly after.
Wang, a cadet with 746 Lightning Hawk, had no injuries, just mosquito bites, police said.
When Glacier Media asked what happened, police said they were investigating and that the family is asking for privacy at this time.
“Today, we will be determining all the facts,” said Mehat.
“Her family has expressed sincere gratitude to all the first responders and search and rescue groups,” added Mehat.
Ridge Meadows Search and Rescue team manager Ryan Smith said Wang’s survival is excellent news.
“I mean, she’s obviously a very determined young lady,” he said.
Smith noted the weather likely helped Wang survive and that she was physically fit.
The search area was steep and had thick forestation, “which did obviously hamper the search efforts. There’s strong tree canopy above there, which, again, limits use of our helicopters and our drones.”