10/01/2012 02:17 EDT | Updated 12/01/2012 05:12 EST

Body of missing B.C. man Albert Chretien found in Nevada

The body of Albert Chretien — who has been missing since 2011 when he went looking for help after he and his wife's van broke down in Nevada — has finally been found, CBC News has confirmed.

A pair of hunters came across Chretien's body on Saturday in a wooded area in Northern Elko County, Nevada officials said.

Chretien's wife, Rita, survived for 48 days in Nevada's wilderness, praying and subsisting on candy, trail mix and snow, before she heard rescuers in the distance last May and was able to alert them.

Det. Dennis Journigan of the county sheriff's department said Chretien's remains were discovered Saturday in a secluded area of Merritt Mountain, about 11 kilometres west from where he set off.

His identity was confirmed by information in his wallet and business cards. Journigan said the remains were intact and hadn't been scattered by animals.

The couple got stuck on a snowy logging road in northeastern Nevada last spring after getting lost on a road trip from their home in Penticton, B.C. to Las Vegas.

Family relieved

Albert Chretien had reportedly left on foot to try to find help, while his wife stayed in their Chevrolet Astro minivan.

Officials told CBC News that Chretien had been heading in the right direction and wasn't too far from a road, but that his journey was likely hampered by deep snow.

Journigan said the police department had been in touch with the family.

Rita Chretien was relieved to hear her husband's body had been found after so long, Det. Jim Carpenter said.

"She's obviously upset but she's also relieved that we recovered Albert's remains," he said.

Albert's sister, Lorraine Hoving of Birch Bay, Wa., told CBC News the family was relieved to "finally have closure."

"It does open the wound again, however, to the emotions," she said in an email statement. "It appears he went peacefully, which we are so thankful for … Apparently, it snowed hard that night so he must have simply laid down and went to heaven.

"We are all holding up fine, we are experiencing a great sense of relief and [are] thankful for closure."

Hunters first discovered Chretien's backpack

Local hunters Rodney Thompson and Jay Doke contacted the Elko County Sheriff's Office on Sept. 29, the sheriff's office said.

The hunters first found a backpack that Chretien carried when he left the van, containing a spiral notebook and sunflower seeds, said Carpenter.

Then, they went up the mountain and discovered Chretien's body, he said.

"They know of the story, of what took place and they were in the general area," Carpenter said Monday. "They put two and two together and called us and said, `Hey, we think we found your missing Canadian guy."'

On the morning of Sept. 30, the elk hunters met with a police search team and led them to the body.

Chretien's remains are now at a funeral home, the sheriff's office said.

Once evidence and details are collected from the scene, the sheriff will decide when, and how, to send his body home, Journigan added.