Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Lost man cannot explain survival

Winnipegger found after weeks in bush

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BRAD Lambert can't explain why he's not dead.

People will just have to accept his incredible tale of survival, the 46-year-old Winnipegger said Monday night.

Lost in the southeastern Manitoba bush for three weeks -- no heat, no fire, no food -- Lambert survived on melted snow and groundwater sucked through a hollowed-out ballpoint pen.

"There's been some skepticism of my account," Lambert said from his Southdale home Monday night, where he's been reunited with his wife and almost-seven-year-old son. "I would have been (skeptical) myself.

"I had the will and the reason to keep fighting. I think that once people see the location of my vehicle, the skeptics will be appeased."

It's still a mystery where his truck is, though Lambert said he thinks he's given the RCMP enough clues for them to find it deep in the bush today.

Lambert set out Thursday, Nov. 15, for a day of hunting, but changed his mind about where he'd hunt and about returning home the same evening. Instead, he kept driving southeast of Marchand along Whitemouth Lake Road in remote country between Sandilands and Northwest Angle provincial forests, intending to sleep in his truck.

The last house he remembers seeing was in La Labre, some 80 kilometres before he turned off the road and started following snowmobile and quad trails wide enough for his truck. Wide enough, until he encountered fallen trees and slid into an icy bog that trapped his truck up to the floorboards, at least seven kilometres into the bush.

"I had my hunting rifle, my hunting clothes," said Lambert, who ran his engine for five days before the fuel ran out, and the battery and his matches and lighter soon after.

For the first few days, "I'd build smoky signal fires and traverse two to four kilometres down different trails looking for signs of life, to no avail," he said.

"It'll be shown quite incredibly difficult to see from the air and impossible from the ground," he said.

He found a clearing and tried using a mirror and a flashlight to signal aircraft. Lambert had always heard that people lost in the woods should stick with their vehicle and not try to retrace their steps, because they're liable to get hopelessly lost.

"I had a nylon bag packed with pine boughs and cattail matter" that served as a blanket, while the truck sheltered him from the wind. But for more than two weeks, he had no fire.

"I didn't sleep very much at all. My sleep was hampered by a need to recirculate blood in my feet and hands," he said. "What was going through my head was ranging from panic to rescue scenarios to thoughts of never seeing my son again or my wife again, or my family."

He had his rifle but saw no animals.

Finally, last Friday, Lambert knew his energy was nearly gone.

"I decided the rescue crews were unable to see me, through no fault of their own. It was breaking the No.1 rule not to leave your location."

With a now-or-never decision, Lambert went sometimes west, sometimes south, from trail to trail, often breaking his own trail through bush. He stayed in the woods Friday night, then broke trail through dense bush some more on Saturday. Finally, after maybe 12 kilometres, he stumbled onto a road where a passing ice fisher found him.

The man -- Lambert does not have permission to release his name -- drove him first to Marchand, 80 kilometres southeast of Winnipeg, to phone his wife and get something to eat, and then to his home in Southdale.

Despite his ordeal and the loss of 40 pounds, Lambert said he spent only one night in hospital.

"My feet are not in the greatest shape -- they're very, very swollen. No frostbite, no hypothermia. I have some lack of sensitivity in my extreme fingertips," said Lambert, who won't return to his job as a corrections officer until January.

He's extremely grateful to everyone who searched for him.

And he tells other hunters never go alone, but do take blankets, food, survival gear and extra fuel and try to stay within cellphone range.

Winnipeg Police Service spokesman Const. Jason Michalyshen said Monday police are still looking into the matter.

Lambert met Monday with the WPS missing persons unit.

"Our part in this is not complete, and we're just holding off providing any specific comments regarding the entire ordeal until we have a firm grasp on everything that has taken place," said Michalyshen.

He said police are "very pleased" that Lambert was reunited with his family, but officers "still have a job to do and an investigation to complete."

After Lambert went missing, police released pictures of him and his black Ford F-150 truck. The missing persons unit and RCMP search and rescue team, along with the Civil Air Search and Rescue Association (CASARA), had searched for Lambert from the air and on the ground.

Dwayne Logan, a Nesbitt-based instructor who teaches wilderness survival courses and disaster preparedness, said the top priority for someone lost in the bush should be to find safe shelter.

"You can only survive maybe as short as three hours without shelter if it's windy and you're wet," said Logan.

nick.martin@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition December 11, 2012 B1

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