Two 16-year-old girls last seen on Thursday in Algonquin Park have been found safe and have been reunited with their families, police said on Monday.
Officers say an OPP canine unit found the girls around noon, just 1.5 kilometres from where they were last seen.
“We couldn’t have asked for any better news than this,” Ontario Provincial Police spokesman, Bill Dickson told CTV News Channel.
“The girls are in amazing condition, no worse for wear, and anxious to get back and be reunited with their families.”
The girls were reunited with their families later Monday.
A large search and rescue effort was launched after Marta Malek and Maya Mirota were reported missing at around 10 p.m. Friday night when they failed to show up at a predetermined rendezvous point with the rest of their camping group.
The campers from Kitchener, Ont., had broken up into smaller groups with plans to meet at a checkpoint. When Mirota and Malek did not arrive, the rest of the group started doing some backtracking, Dickson said, but they found no sign of them. OPP initiated search protocols immediately after they were contacted, and ramped up efforts on Saturday morning.
Prior to their rescue, Mirota and Malek were last seen on the Western Uplands Trail, near Rainbow Lake on Thursday morning. They were found only about 1.5 kilometres away from where they were last seen, said Dickson.
“That just goes to show how dense and rugged this terrain is. The forest is very, very thick in this part of Algonquin Park,” he said, adding that it would have been extremely dark at night as well.
“So if they got off the trail a little bit, or onto a wrong trail, it was going to be hard for them for them to find their way back to even where they started from, much less get to where they wanted to go.”
Police said the two girls relied on their survival training and heeded the advice of not moving after realizing they were lost.
The conditions also made search and rescue efforts particularly challenging. A police helicopter, a plane from the Ministry of Natural Resources, and police dogs had all been enlisted to help the provincial police and a trained civilian search and rescue group comb through the region, but the dense forestry made visibility on the ground difficult.
Algonquin Park, located in central Ontario, is 7,653 square kilometres and bigger than the U.S. state of Delaware.
“When it’s dark in Algonquin Park, it is very, very dark,” Dickson said. “I can’t imagine what they went through the last couple nights.”
Before they were found, Dickson had expressed optimism that the girls were in good condition and simply lost, due to optimal weather conditions and the fact that the girls were experienced campers equipped with a tent and enough supplies to last a few days.
With files from The Canadian Press