Nearly 200 volunteers aid in search for hiker reported missing last week

Nearly 200 volunteers aid in search for hiker reported missing last week
170 volunteers from 17 search and rescue groups banded together to search for the high-risk missing hiker, Melissa McDevitt.

Resources from across the province poured in on Saturday during another search for Victoria resident Melissa McDevitt, a high-risk hiker who was reported missing near Charters River last week.

Surveillance footage captured on Dec. 9 showed the last known sighting of the 39-year-old woman, hiking along a trail just before 2 p.m. The family of McDevitt reported her missing after not showing for her ferry ride to Vancouver, where she was to catch a flight to North Carolina to visit.

One week after she was reported, help from the province poured in. Paul Berry, president of the Comox Valley Search and Rescue says around 170 volunteers from 17 groups gathered at the Juan de Fuca Salmon Restoration Society building ahead of the hours-long search.

“A significant portion of that briefing is getting them to know who Melissa is, getting them to understand her and her behaviours,” said Berry, who is acting as a Level 2 Search Manager overseeing the operation.

Resources including trucks, ATVs, canines, and helicopters were used to cover a six-kilometre radius from where McDevitt’s car was found. The search radius was determined based on several factors, including how long its been since she was reported missing.

The continuous search efforts turned into a possible recovery mission since recent weather, including a wind storm that happened the night she was last seen, could have made McDevitt seek shelter in the area.

“It’s always been our belief that she knew she had to turn around, so not to be caught by darkness and that she’s probably not far from where her car was parked,” said Berry.

McDevitt’s father, Tom, flew in from North Carolina to aid in the search for the hiker on Tuesday. Berry says the dad began the drive home on Friday using Melissa’s car.

McDevitt is considered to be a high-risk woman who is neurodivergent.  Friends and family say she is an avid hiker, has alopecia, and may be wearing a wig or have short, dyed, rainbow-coloured hair.

As time runs out, Berry is worried that search efforts may have to shut down and will become an open missing person’s case file.

“If Melissa is not located from the efforts today and tomorrow, [it’s our hope] that she will be located at some point in the future,” said Berry.

If anyone has any information on McDevitt, you’re asked to contact Sooke RCMP at 250-642-5241.

Oli HerreraOli Herrera

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