Dave Pineo’s mobility scooter was found on a trail in Bracken Park in Black Creek Saturday but searchers from across Vancouver Island could find no trace of him since then.
He lives in supportive housing on Bracken Road and friends say they became frantic when they heard he was missing.
“I think panic hit, sheer panic but there was no sign of Dave around, we screamed his name probably 100 times,” said Suzanne Taylor.
The scooter was found with no key suggesting he might have parked it and gone for a walk, however, he has mobility and other health issues which raised immediate concerns.
“He suffered a stroke about six years ago so he has some mobility challenges and he is unable to speak,” said Paul Berry, Search Manager with Comox Valley Ground SAR.
Teams searched the nearby Oyster River and back roads and brought in a helicopter and drones to look down into the thick brush.
Then around 10:30 a.m. Monday morning, while a search team from Nanaimo was taking a break about a kilometre from where the scooter was found, Hazel a search dog heard something in the distance.
“Hazel was indicating that she could hear something, her ears were twitching and she had stopped and perked up and was quite interested in the noise from the bushes so we stopped and listened and we could hear him yelling,” said Carly Trobridge of Nanaimo Search and Rescue.
Pineo was then found about 100 metres away under a tree, where he’d likely spent the night or longer.
“He was very grateful and relieved to be found. He was exhausted, you could see he was exhausted and so dehydrated he kept asking for water,” said Pamela Blaikie of Nanaimo SAR.
Paramedics assessed Pineo’s condition and he was taken to Campbell River Hospital for further evaluation.
Pineo has so far been unable to indicate what happened to him.
“I’m just very happy he’s in that shape and not worse,” said Taylor.
The successful end to the search marked the third time Hazel has found someone alive.