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Woman who survived 7 weeks in Nevada wilderness recalls preparing to die

MissingHiker.jpg

UNDATED: Albert Chretien and wife Rita are shown. (Royal Canadian Mounted Police handout)

A Canadian woman found on the verge of starvation after seven weeks in a Nevada wilderness area told an Idaho church congregation that she had been prepared to die the same day hunters came across her stranded van.

Rita Chretien, who lives in Penticton, British Columbia, spoke Sunday during a service at First Church of the Nazarene in Twin Falls about her ordeal. She was found weak but alive in May 2011 in the rugged mountains of northeastern Nevada, near the Idaho state line.

Her husband, Albert, 59, went for help on foot and didn't make it out alive. Rita Chretien, who was 56 at the time, stayed in the van and survived on trail mix, hard candy and melted snow. She told the church about the role played by her faith.

"I asked the Lord to satisfy my stomach as if I'd had a full meal," Chretien said, according to a story published Monday in the Times-News.

After being stranded 49 days, Chretien said her strength was almost gone and she thought she was going to have a heart attack when she pulled on fresh socks, wrapped herself in a blanket and prepared to die before hearing the sound of off-road vehicles.

"I thought I was dreaming," she said. "Then I thought, `Hey, I'm not dreaming. This is really happening."'

Her husband had set out on foot in search of help on March 22, 2011, three days after the couple's van got stuck on a muddy road. They got lost because they were "foolishly following a GPS without a lot of experience," Chretien said.

The Chretiens owned a commercial excavating business and were headed to Las Vegas for a trade show. They left a highway after using their new GPS unit to find the shortest route, and ended up on a remote forest road miles from the nearest town.

Albert Chretien's body has not been found.

His wife smiled as she recalled a memorial service for him attended by about 700 people.

"Al's brother spoke a wonderful message of hope," she told the Idaho churchgoers. "There was more joy and laughter than tears."

Chretien has repeatedly denied requests from The Associated Press for an interview. She has been described as a private person who shuns attention, but previously accepted invitations to give motivational talks at a mayoral prayer breakfast in British Columbia and at a large church in Calgary.

She met the pastor of the Idaho church after she was rescued and taken to a hospital, where she requested a pastor from a Nazarene church. Pastor Steve Meyers, who is with the Twin Falls church, volunteered to pray with Chretien, and they have remained in contact.

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