PORT MOODY "I'm here."
They were the first words from Joy Zhang after being spotted by search and rescue teams near Sasamat Lake Sunday.
With those two words, a three-day tale of survival had come to a successful conclusion for the missing 21-year-old.
Zhang was discovered at 4 p.m. in a dense and steep area by searchers some 600 metres from the Coquitlam Search and Rescue command centre, which was set up at White Pine Beach.
She was found 76 hours after she first disappeared.
Other than being scared and dehydrated, the Coquitlam resident was described as being in "good condition" considering how long she had been gone.
Connie Deboer, a member of North Shore Rescue, was the first to find Zhang.
She said she heard the young woman's voice before finally seeing her.
Deboer said her first thought was to get her hands on Zhang so she couldn't run away.
"I got my hands on her and I radioed in 'I've got Joy,'" she said.
Deboer credited Zhang's bravery throughout the ordeal, noting the woman had made a little nest where she was discovered.
"She [Zhang] was really brave to meet me head on like that, I could see she was really afraid," she said.
Zhang appeared to have hunkered down for sometime about 100 metres off a trail leading to a nearby camp.
She was transported to hospital to get checked out with her family by her side.
Deboer said she always believed Zhang was alive during her time searching.
"There's no feeling as good as handing a child back to their parents, there is nothing like it," she said.
Zhang, who is mentally challenged, and a friend went missing from the lake in Port Moody Thursday afternoon during an outing with her classmates from Douglas College.
The pair somehow became separated, while her friend Judy was found later that evening.
Mike Coyle, a search commander with Coquitlam Search and Rescue, credited Zhang's friend Judy for giving them some clues to help in the search.
He noted SAR teams took the woman out Sunday in the area in an effort to retrace the pair's steps the first night they got lost and separated.
Coyle said Judy's information helped eliminate places the teams needed to look.
"It's the best possible outcome to a search like this," he said, noting had the weather been not as warm the last few days, it could have ended very differently.
"We feel completely and utterly relieved and very happy, especially spending so long searching with no clues."
The signs of relief were everywhere at the command centre when word came down that Zhang had been found safe and sound.
"Words escape me for once in my life," said Port Moody Police Const. Ian Morrison.
He noted Zhang's family was overwhelmed by the events of the last few days, adding members of the force spent a lot of time with her family during the ordeal, but could offer few words to ease the situation.
Officials with Douglas College were also relieved at word Zhang was found.
"We're really really quite thankful and we're all very delighted that we share in the moment of joy," said Douglas College president Scott McAlpine.
However, when asked by the media if the college was considering revising its policies around field trips in light of the incident, McAlpine didn't answer.
At various points during the search, there were some 60 volunteers from the community looking for Zhang, including a baseball team, and another 35 trained SAR members from several organizations.
Posters of the missing woman were plastered throughout the park, while police agencies were asking the public who planned to venture to the beach on the long weekend to keep an eye out for her.
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