A massive search involving more than 60 volunteers from a number of Alberta communities had a happy ending as 32 year-old Ian Mahon was found alive and in good condition following a two-day ordeal in the thick bush northwest of Rimbey.
At approximately 2:30 a.m. on the morning of Aug. 30, the Rimbey RCMP were dispatched to a lease site west of Highway 22 where they were informed that Mahon had not shown up for his shift and was last seen at 10 a.m. on the previous day.
“The individual had gone for a walk from his well site where he was doing some work and was down along the North Saskatchewan River. He was located by a helicopter that was doing a patrol looking for him,” said Sgt. Mark Groves. “With the heavy underbrush and the canopy from the trees and bush, he of course wasn’t seen or able to be found. At the time, he was out along the river bank and was seen by the helicopter.”
Groves said Mahon was out for a walk but in such a heavily wooded area, he most likely lost his bearings and did not know exactly where he was headed or how to get back to the original point.
“In that area of course, it’s extremely heavily wooded with very few roads and if you do find a road, it often leads to a wellhead and not out,” Groves added. “Where he was located was the end of the line and there were no more roads, just bush.”
Mahon was found at approximately 2 p.m. on the afternoon of Aug. 31 in an area approximately 20 kilometres northwest of the junction of Highways 53 and 22 along the banks of the North Saskatchewan River.
When he was located, Groves said Mahon was in good condition however he was suffering from dehydration and sunburn and had also sustained numerous bug bites. He was transported to the Rimbey Hospital by helicopter where he was treated and later released.
“It was an absolutely extraordinary story of partnership with the search and rescue teams of southern Alberta. We had teams out from many different communities and approximately 60 search and rescue volunteers were participating on the Monday and there were at least 20 to 30 on the Sunday and they were working in a team effort under the incident commander,” Groves said in commending everyone involved.
“They did a thorough search of the area as best they could under the environmental conditions like the bush and the undergrowth, creeks and drainages. It’s extremely thick in there and if you’re 10 feet away from somebody else, you’re not seeing them, so it was a challenging search. But he was located, fortunately in good health and was tended to.”
Groves added a bit of sage advice for those who may be considering a hike into the wilderness such as to ensure someone of your intentions, where you’ll be going and when you expect to return. Further, he said it would be a good idea to be prepared including bringing along insect repellant, food, water and if necessary, camping equipment. Additionally, Groves suggested bringing a compass or GPS unit.
The search for Mohan included an RCMP airplane, a chartered helicopter, a CASAR aircraft and a number of quads along with search and rescue units from Calgary, Didsbury, Olds, Red Deer, Rocky Mountain House, Wetaskiwin and Parkland.