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The Shortest Route Was a Tragic Route

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons/CC

In March 2011, Rita and Albert Chretien were driving from Canada to Las Vegas with guidance from their new GPS.  But their trip came to a sudden, unexpected stop on the 19th in the wilderness of Nevada's Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest, when their two-wheel-drive van became stuck in the mud on washed-out forest service roads deep in the high country.

According to the Associated Press, the Chretiens had consulted their GPS "to find the shortest route to Jackpot, nestled in Nevada's northeastern corner. If they had typed in the town's name into their GPS from anywhere in the area, the shortest route would have led them off-highway and along possibly a half-dozen different forest service roads only named with numbers. They apparently followed the route into the mountains without question."

Yes, we've heard similar stories before—people following the directions given by a piece of technology without consulting a map or using common sense in the process, allowing themselves to be led into danger and, sometimes, even death. Remember the Nevada couple who got stranded for three days in the Oregon desert after they followed directions from their GPS device? Soon after that, an Oregon couple spent about 12 hours stranded in the Northwest's Cascade Mountains with their 11-month-old daughter. Lucky for them, those stories had happy endings. For the Chretiens, though, theirs appears to be a tragedy.

On Friday, May 6th, 56-year-old Rita Chretien was found barely alive—yes, seven weeks after getting stuck—by a group of hunters on ATVs who themselves had made a wrong turn on the confusing network of Forest Service roads. Her husband, however, is still missing, having set out on foot on March 22nd to walk more than 20 miles to find help, hoping to make it to Mountain City.

Two of the men who found Rita rode nearly ten miles on their ATVs to get cell service and called Elko County dispatchers.

Rita Chretian survived by rationing trail mix and hard candy and drinking from a nearby creek. She lost as much as 30 pounds during that time and would not have survived much longer.

Sgt. Kevin McKinney of the Elko County Sheriff's Department, which is leading the continuing search for Albert Chretian said, "Many of the roads are just washed out, covered from rock slides, and there are deep pockets of drifting snow." 

For more on this story and the continuing search, read:

Canadian Woman Found Alive, Husband Still Missing
Woman Who Was Stranded for Weeks Leaves Hospital
Teams Seek Man Whose Wife Survived Seven Weeks in Bush

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