Barbara Stenson was beside herself for three frightful hours as police and neighbours searched tirelessly for her missing toddler.
But when Shiah, 3, was found hidden in her home, under the blankets of her grandmother’s bed, those fears gave way to a flood of relief and joy.
“I apologize immensely but I also thank you so much,” she told a gathering after Shiah was located by Const. Trish Waugh, who spotted the girl’s hand peeking out from the covers on Tuesday at 3:30 p.m.
“It’s the worst (thing that can happen to a parent.) I feel like I should buy everyone a lobster dinner…I feel foolish, but I don’t feel that foolish; I’m just glad she’s safe.”
Barbara called police sometime after noon that day, when she couldn’t find her daughter.
The family had only moved to the home a few weeks earlier, and when Barbara saw the lock to the side door was unlatched, she assumed her daughter had gotten loose into a neighbourhood she was unfamiliar with.
That’s when she called police, who showed up in large force.
Const. Steve Holmes said Kelowna RCMP probably deployed eight to nine officers who were on watch duty, three through the air in the police helicopter, two police dogs, search and rescue crews, volunteer policing officers, community policing officers, bylaw officers and the bike squad.
There were probably 20-plus people on official duty, he surmised, but the area was also flooded with anxious neighbours who were focused on a happy ending.
No Amber Alert was called when the girl went missing, because that requires knowledge or evidence of an abduction, among other things.
While the exhaustive nature of the search may seem unusual given the child was found in her own home, Holmes said the Stensons took the right course of action.
“We would rather go to 100 of these than have a tragedy occur because someone didn’t call in time,” he said.
“You can’t put a dollar sign on a child, or anyone’s, life.”
And, said Holmes, the fact the child was obscured from an initial RCMP search of the house, with being found in the confines of her own home is actually far from unusual.
“It’s possible to overlook a small child in a bed,” he said.
“I once found a child asleep under a beanbag chair. After searching the house once or twice.
“I walked by a beanbag chair, and lifted it, and (the boy) was under it.”
There have even been cases where little ones have been found under piles of laundry, under beds and furniture, he added.