Two Kitchener teens who were reported missing in Algonquin Park have been found safe and reunited with their families, OPP say.
Marta Malek, 16, and Maya Mirota, 16, were reported missing to the OPP on Friday at around 10 p.m. after they missed a rendezvous with the rest of their group.
The pair were last seen a day earlier on the Western Uplands Trail, between Rainbow Lake and Susan Lake.
The two teens were found less than two kilometres away from the trail between the two lakes by a canine unit just before 12 p.m. on Monday, OPP media co-ordinator Bill Dickson told Global News.
“I know they were probably hunkered down and hoping that the search teams would come and find them,” Dickson said.
The girls had made it about a quarter of the way toward their destination when they realized they had left the trail and were lost. They drew on their education about being in the forest and decided to stay where they were instead of continuing on, possibly farther from any trails and potential rescue.
According to police, the two Kitchener teens rationed their food and water. They had a tent, other camping equipment and limited supplies.
Dickson said the area in which they were looking for the girls is difficult terrain to search.
“This is a very rugged area and a very, very dense tree canopy there,” Dickson said. “So, it’s a challenge for the air search in terms of being able to see through the treetops.
“We’re hoping the girls would hear the helicopter or the fixed-wing aircraft from the ministry that’s there and get into a clearing to make themselves visible.”
Several people responded to an OPP tweet about the missing girls with offers of assistance but police asked people to steer clear of the area.
“It’s rugged terrain to get through, so it takes time. And that’s part of the reason we’re saying no at this point in time – we’re not calling on members of the public to come and help out because it is such rugged terrain and the searchers that we do have in there, the trained searchers, they’re all tracked by GPS,” Dickson explained. “So, once an area has been cleared by our searchers, we can mark that off on a map.”
He said if members of the public had gotten involved, it could have gotten disorganized and caused unnecessary confusion.
“If we have people just wandering in the woods looking, we might be doing double duty and the same area is being searched two or three times,” Dickson said.
Before the teens were found, he expressed full confidence that police would find Malek and Mirota.
“Our searchers are out there and we’re confident we’re going to find these young ladies,” Dickson said.
There were reports of sightings of the two girls over the weekend in and around Algonquin Park.
“We’ve had sightings from within the park,” Dickson said. “One sighting that was reported along Highway 60.”
Dickson thanked all those who assisted with the search.
“We want to thank the public for any tips that came in, but we really, really want to thank our partners,” he said. “It was great teamwork, and we’re just so happy that this ended the way it did.”