11-year-old girl and great-grandfather found after night in truck stuck in mud

Eleven-year-old Chloe Burke and her great-grandfather, 76-year-old Joseph Doyle, were found Tuesday morning after getting stuck in mud in the woods, Miramichi police say.

Miramichi Deputy Chief Brian Cummings said the pair were spotted trying to get gas in Notre-Dame-des-Érables, about about 115 kilometres northwest of Miramichi, where they live. 

They hadn't been seen since 5 p.m. the day before in the Miramichi-area community of Craigville.

Doyle had picked up Chloe to go for a drive while waiting for a daughter to get off work.

"It looks like their vehicle became stuck in the mud out in the woods, and Mr. Doyle and his great-granddaughter walked out with a gas can to get gas," Cummings said.

RCMP said Doyle and Chloe stayed in the vehicle overnight, then walked in the morning to a gas station. They were a lot farther from Miramichi than police expected. 

It was just so hard laying there wondering did somebody do something? He couldn't have just disappeared. I mean, there had to be something. -Kathy Machette, Doyle's daughter

Cummings, who has known Doyle for years, said he and his great-granddaughter couldn't speak French, and the clerk working at the gas station couldn't speak English but recognized there was an issue and called RCMP.

Cummings said Doyle might have health issues, causing him to be confused and "unaware of his surrounding." 

Doyle is from the suburban Miramichi neighbourhood of Nelson.  


"He had an appointment that he was supposed to pick up his daughter that he didn't show up for," Cummings said. "As time went on the family became more worried."

He said the duo's disappearance came at a difficult time for the community, where four teens died in a car crash at the end of April.

"It's a happy ending and we're happy for the family," Cummings said. Sometimes these things don't end quite so happily."

'A long night'

Kathy Machette, Doyle's daughter, said he lived with her sister, Wanda Doyle, and always picked her up after she was finished work. On Monday, he was an hour earlier than usual so went for a drive.

Then he didn't come back.

"It was a long night," Machette said.

This is the first time anything like this has happened to their father.

The family contacted everyone they knew who might know Doyle and Chloe's whereabouts and searched areas where they might be. 

"We were just sitting around all night waiting for word," Machette said. "And nothing.

"It was just so hard laying there wondering did somebody do something? He couldn't have just disappeared. I mean, there had to be something." 

Catherine Harrop/CBC

Her father had been tested for dementia, but the results came back negative.

Matchette admitted her father would sometimes get confused, but she always thought he would be able to make his way home after driving around.

Family grateful for support

Raymond Doyle said he was shocked when he found out his grandfather was missing.

Raymond didn't get much sleep during the night, but he's grateful for the support of people in Miramichi.  

Catherine Harrop/CBC

"They had the whole neighbourhood out looking for him," he said. 

Police gave out the licence plate number and asked the public to watch for a white 2015 Ford Escape. 

Doyle was checked out at the hospital in Tracadie, and Chloe's mother went to Caraquet to pick her up. 

"Thank God that they're here, they're safe," Matchette said.