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Didsbury senior rescued after 4 days alone in central Alberta wilderness

The search for an elderly woman who wandered away from a campground west of Innisfail ended happily Thursday morning.

A 78-year-old woman was recued by an RCMP helicopter assisted by multiple search and rescue crews Thursday morning after four days alone -- she was found "alive and well", with officials telling CTV News the senior experienced confusion.

"You don't forget these type of events. They stay with you," said Special Constable Al Miller, also a pilot for the RCMP.

On Monday, family called police saying they last spotted Vandenbosch at a campground at Dickson Point at Glennifer Lake, about 60 kilometres southwest of Red Deer.

Officials believe she wandered off into a heavily-wooded area.

The rescue mission was complete as of 9:30 Thursday morning, when the senior was located in good condition.

Rescue effort by Alberta RCMP Air Services on Thursday, June 1, 2023

"She was conscious and in considerably good shape considering four days out in the bush," said Miller.

Other officers described deep satisfaction and gratitude for the successful mission.

"We are actually able to get her out of there, and provide some meaningful assistance and help people," said RCMP Corporal Kaylin Makeechek.

She was assessed by paramedics nearby, then transported by STARS Air Ambulance to hospital for more assessment.

RCMP say they want to know how Vandenbosch made it through without food, water, or technology.

"Our officers will be interviewing her once she's able to try to figure out what happened over the last four days, but that is a long time," said Cpl. Troy Savinkoff, RCMP public information officer.

Pilots and ground crew with the Civil Air Search and Rescue Association (CASARA) say they are grateful to have contributed to Vandenbosch's safe return.

"It was amazing actually from our point. We worked hard at it, it was tough flying," said Jim Thoreson, pilot of fixed-wing aircraft with CASARA.

"It's a great feeling knowing she came out alive. I can't imagine what she would have gone through out there," said Peter Wakefield, a zone commander with CASARA.

Further details about Vandenbosch's medical condition were not shared, but Mounties say she's in good spirits.