When her parents looked up from the front seat of their family car, they couldn’t believe their eyes.
It was dusk and they were exhausted. Their eyes must have been deceiving them – but that wasn’t the case.
It was in fact their 16-year-old daughter – who had been missing in Golden Ears Provincial Park for more than two full days. She was walking out of the wilderness and heading right towards them.
A few short hours ago, Esther Wang walked out of the East Canyon Trail – the same trail she disappeared on Tuesday afternoon – and she was very much alive and well, despite being fatigued and eaten alive by mosquitoes, said Ridge Meadows RCMP Staff Sgt. Keith Schendel.
“It is confirmed,” he shared with The News, noting how appreciative he was to be able to share good news in this case immediately after meeting with Wang and her parents in the park.
It turned out she got lost and spent two days trying to find her way out.
After making numerous trips up and down the mountain trying to find a path out… after sleeping on logs intermittently through the ordeal… And after rationing her food and water, until it was all but gone, the missing teenager walked out of the forested mountainside, and strolled right up to her parents car just before 9:30 p.m. on Thursday night.
Her parents had just climbed into their vehicle as the sun was going down on the third day of an extensive backwoods search for Wang.
Wang was one of four people who went for a hike at around 9 a.m. Tuesday, as part of a youth activity.
The group, that was on a camping trip, hiked to Steve’s Lookout and left at around 2:45 p.m. to head back to their campground. Around 15 minutes into the hike back, the group leader was alerted that Wang had been separated from the group.
“As it is when people get tired at different levels of fitness, the group got a little bit separated and when they stopped to check up and wait for each other, they noticed that Esther had fallen behind and they couldn’t locate her,” RCMP Cpl. Julie Klaussner explained early into the search.
The group went back to the viewpoint looking for Wang, but they were unable to find her.
That’s when the group leader went to the entrance of the trail and alerted a park ranger who reported Wang missing to police.
During the subsequent hours and days, Ridge Meadows Search and Rescue – with assistance from the Ridge Meadows RCMP and the police dog unit, as well as search volunteers from around the Lower Mainland – combed the areas where she had last been seen and continued to extend the search radius out from there.
It’s estimated upwards of 50 people were involved in the hunt for Wang during the past few days.
“Thankfully,” Schendel said, “she emerged from the wilderness… she walked out under her own power tonight.”
Paramedics were called up to the mountain Thursday night, to check Wang out. But relatively unharmed by the experience, the teen was released to the care of her grateful and “overjoyed” parents.
While more details of her last few days in the backwoods will wait until Wang has a chance to sleep, the staff sergeant was able to piece together a few basics.
“It looked like she had taken a wrong turn. She had basically descended the mountain a bit and then when she realized that she’d taken the wrong turn, she tried to correct but went back up the incorrect way maybe,” Schendel said, noting some facts are still a bit unclear due to her level of exhaustion.
During and after the search, her parents have repeatedly expressed appreciation to all those involved in trying to find their little girl.
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