Sat nav system blamed for woman who nearly died in US mountains

Katy Holland

A mother of three spent 48 days stranded in the Nevada mountains and nearly died - all because she had been led astray by her satnav system.

Rita Chretien, 56, and her husband Albert, 59, were driving from their home in British Columbia, Canada to Las Vegas.

They had planned to stop at a small town, Jackpot, on the Nevada border and consulted the navigational system for the quickest route.

But this led the couple through a remote mountain range for which they were completely ill-equipped.

Their ten-year-old Chevrolet only had front-wheel drive and soon became stuck in the mud.

Mr Chretien, who set out on foot after three days to get help, has still not been found.

Mrs Chretien had survived for seven weeks by eating trail mix, boiled sweets and drinking water from a stream. She lost around 30lb during her ordeal.

She was extremely weak when she was discovered after draping colourful blankets from the van's windows to attract attention.

A helicopter was sent to airlift Mrs Chretien to hospital.

One of their three sons, Raymond Chretien, said the family was 'stunned' their mother had been found alive.

A search and rescue team, with 20 volunteers on horseback and several all-terrain vehicles are continuing to cover a wide search area looking for Mr Chretien.

The area in which the Chretiens were travelling is known to be particularly dangerous and inhospitable.

By typing 'Jackpot' into the van's GPS, the shortest route leads off the main road and along a network of forest roa

ds labelled only with numbers.

One of the rescuers, Sgt McKinney. said: 'I'm no expert on GPS devices and how they work, but if you plug in for the shortest distance to any location it'll give you that, but that's not always the best way to go.'

Ryan Stowell, who lives in the remote mountain area, said: 'I think that GPS really screwed them up.

Blindly following GPS units has led several drivers into life-threatening situations in the past.

In December 2009, a couple from Nevada were stranded for three days in the Oregon desert after they followed directions from a navigation device.

Mike Ferguson, author of guidebook GPS Land Navigation, said many inexperienced travellers put too much trust in devices and don't use their common sense.

'Unless you're prepared for it, with a four-wheel drive, or maybe a snow machine in winter, when it sends you off into remote terrain, it can get you into big trouble,' he said, speaking in the Daily Mail.