REGINA — If the search for a missing girl in a central Saskatchewan hamlet went on just a few hours longer, RCMP say the outcome may have been tragic.
An 11-year-old girl was sick at home but RCMP said when her mother returned to their house in Bankend around 5:13 p.m., her daughter wasn't there.
Her mother saw footprints leading from the home and searched the area. When she still couldn't find her daughter, RCMP Cpl. Rob King said she called police.
A team of about 12 people was quickly assembled. Although the girl was dressed for winter, the conditions were worsening and King said time was of the essence.
"It was about -15 C but at the time ... darkness is starting to fall, it was starting to snow," he said.
RCMP, a conservation officer, highway patrol and local volunteers started scouring the area, trudging through snow looking for any hint of the missing girl.
About two hours in, a local volunteer spotted a set of footprints just outside the search area. The volunteer followed the tracks through an open field, into some light bushes and towards a frozen slough.
That's where he found the girl collapsed face-down in the snow more than six kilometres from Bankend.
"It was good observation skills and a little bit of luck as well that he was able to find that trail and stay on that trail as he followed it," King said.
The girl was taken to hospital and treated for hypothermia and injuries related to exposure. King said her condition is improving.
"Had this search gone on for another potentially few hours, we might have been talking about a terribly different outcome," King said.