Hope and prayer drove 33-day search that reached a happy ending in northern Quebec

·2 min read
Percy James Poucachiche pictured before his ordeal, left, and on Aug. 23, right, when he was found across the lake from Lac Simon in northern Quebec. The 26-year-old survived 33-days in the forest eating berries and rabbit. (submitted by Daniel Pien - image credit)
Percy James Poucachiche pictured before his ordeal, left, and on Aug. 23, right, when he was found across the lake from Lac Simon in northern Quebec. The 26-year-old survived 33-days in the forest eating berries and rabbit. (submitted by Daniel Pien - image credit)

A young Anishinaabe man from Lac Simon was found weak but safe and sound after being lost for 33 days in the forest in northern Quebec.

Percy James Poucachiche was found Aug. 24 across the lake from his community of Lac Simon, after a large volunteer effort to find him.

Lac Simon is located east of Val d'Or and south of Senneterre, about 600 kilometres north of Montreal.

The 26-year-old had been reported missing on July 23.

"Everybody's happy. The community, the council …The community showed its strength, because everybody got together, they showed up," said Daniel Pien, who helped coordinate the search with dozens of people, with support from the Sûreté du Québec.

Radio-Canada/Marc-André Landry
Radio-Canada/Marc-André Landry

"His mother had faith that she would find him. She never lost hope," said Pien.

"She prayed. She was surrounded by many women, who supported her and helped her through."

On July 21, the young Poucachiche decided to stay in a tent in the bush not too far from his community. It was something he had done in the past and his mother arranged to bring him food.

But after the first night, when she arrived with the food, Poucachiche was not around. The next day she reported him missing to provincial police.

The searchers came from Lac Simon, but also from Val d'Or and other surrounding towns. At times there were more than 60 searchers.

submitted by Daniel Pien
submitted by Daniel Pien

"People showed up, like Quebecers from Val d'Or, and brought donations, they brought coffee and donuts for the searchers and volunteers," said Pien.

Some Atikamekw and Anishinaabe volunteers also came to help. Some Cree neighbours brought water.

The Sûreté du Québec provided dogs for the search and also conducted a search of the lake, but they found nothing.

On the night of Aug. 23, two local fishers from Lac Simon heard something across the lake.

"It was dark, almost 8:45 p.m. … They asked for help from the local police. When the boat got across the lake, the policeman asked, "Can you identify yourself?" and he responded, "I am Percy Poucachiche," said Pien.

submitted by Daniel Pien
submitted by Daniel Pien

When they brought Poucachiche to the shore, he was met by an ambulance, police and some community members.

Pien said Poucachiche was visibly weakened from spending so long in the bush.

"He had a hard time to walk. He had almost no energy. He was hungry. His face almost shrank because he didn't have enough to eat," said Pien.

Pien said Poucachiche survived by eating blueberries and rabbit, but he doesn't know much more about how Poucachiche got through those 33 days.

"Someone called the mother … She opened the doors of the ambulance to grab him and hugged him."

Poucachiche spent one night in hospital before going home with his mother.

The community held a special evening last Thursday to thank the searchers and volunteers.