Two northern Alberta residents shed light on what they did to ensure an elderly Valleyview couple made it home alive earlier this week – after they got lost driving on a remote dirt road.

On Monday, Valleyview RCMP started searching for Neil, 84, and Pearl Holmes, 80 – after family members reported them missing from their home.

Investigators said Neil Holmes suffered from dementia, and had become lost while driving before.

Police started an air search that day – but asked residents in the area to check their properties.

“Not much for leaves on the trees right now, so the probability of detection from the air was quite good,” Staff Sgt. Bruce Bracken with Valleyview RCMP said.

So, Sheilla McCaroll and Kim Havell went to search for the couple on their own – and found Neil curled up in a ditch off of a gravel road.

“He had taken his shoe off, and had laid it on the gravel so he had a pillow,” Sheilla said.

More than a kilometre away, Pearl remained in the couple’s minivan, which had become stuck on a remote dirt road.

“He said ‘Don’t get out of the car, I’ll be back in two hours’,” Pearl said. “Well, he never came back.”

Her husband of 60 years said he had gone to get help.

“Well, what are you going to do, you have to do something,” Neil said. “I was scared for her.”

The women who found the couple checked the remote road on an intuition from Havell, who lives near where the couple was found – which was about 30 kilometres southeast of Valleyview.

“We found Neil, I went up the hill to call 911,” Havell said. “I phoned my husband to come because he knew where we were and I got him to flag down RCMP and the ambulance at the end of the road.”

After they were missing for 26 hours, the couple’s daughter Darlene, relieved, thanked everyone who helped search for her parents.

However, police said there was always a risk the story could have ended differently.

“Being that Neil was 84 years old, and obviously dehydrated, no medication and the cooler climate, he could have succumbed to that by morning,” Staff Sgt. Bracken said.

For Neil, the result of their ordeal is a valuable lesson.

“Never get so far away from her,” Neil said. “Never leave her, in that kind of situation, never.”

With files from Veronica Jubinville