Six months after Melissa McDevitt disappeared while hiking in a remote area near Sooke, RCMP are reactivating the search.
McDevitt’s smartwatch has helped narrow down the trail where the 39-year-old may have been hiking the day she went missing.
This weekend, search and rescue volunteers from across Vancouver Island will band together once more, this time with the goal of recovery and providing closure for the avid hiker’s family.
“We plan to operate both Saturday and Sunday with teams about nine teams from the Island, we have a much more focused area to search based on some of the data we’ve received from the family and those who have been continuing to search since December,” said Paul Berry with Comox Valley Search and Rescue.
The new data comes from McDevitt’s Garmin watch showing the day before she disappeared, she hiked a trail out and back in the same area. Giving RCMP reason to believe the following day, Friday, Dec. 9, she headed out the same way with the intention of hiking further.
“We’re searching much further north and looking at all trails leading off to the north of where she finished on the Thursday night,” added Berry.
The trails in the high-priority area have been searched before, but this time they’ll start off the trail, battling thick vegetation and lots of cliff bands. The belief is that McDevitt took shelter the night she went missing due to strong winds and snow.
“We are looking for objects that are going to be very difficult to spot, her hiking poles, shoes, those sorts of things. We’ll be conducting more of a grid type of search as opposed to an initial response search, which is running along, working on trails and looking for evidence that someone has left the trail,” said Berry.
McDevitt’s parents who are home in North Carolina, are optimistic about the new search and are thankful for the countless volunteers who have spent hours of their time searching for their daughter.
“They want to bring her home for us as much as they want to bring her home so they can say they made a difference in bringing Melissa’s missing status to closure,” said Melissa’s father, Tom Mcdevitt.
The search will begin Saturday morning at Sea to Sea Regional Park. Park users are asked to remain off the trails at that time.