WINNIPEG – Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister was hiking while on vacation in New Mexico and was overdue by an hour when his wife called police who found him injured at a trailhead.
Lt. Elizabeth Armijo of the New Mexico State Police said Pallister was reported missing by his wife on Monday at about 7 p.m.
The premier’s office said Pallister was hiking in the Gila Wilderness when he had a serious fall and suffered fractures in his left arm, along with numerous cuts and bruises.
The government said Pallister was hospitalized that night and returned to Manitoba on Friday to determine if surgery will be necessary.
Armijo said rescue volunteers began to prepare for a search after Pallister’s wife, Esther, called. But a New Mexico State Police officer who had been searching some different trailheads in the area found the premier at the main entrance for the Mogollon Trail, Armijo said.
“When he was located, he had sustained some injuries, nothing serious, but enough to be transported to a hospital where he was treated,” she told The Canadian Press Friday.
“He was waiting there and, due to his injury, it sounds like he was immobile.”
Pallister was on vacation during a one-week break between legislature sessions.
Armijo said she didn’t know if Pallister was hiking alone. She noted the Mogollon Trail has varying levels of intensity.
“It’s in a very high altitude area and there are a lot of canyons and some treacherous areas that can be difficult for hiking. There’s a variety of trails that you can go in that specific area, but it’s definitely a trail that would be considered for experienced hikers.”
Pallister’s office initially said the fall occurred Tuesday, but a spokesman later said that might have been a mistake.
“He arrived back today, so we informed the public today,” Pallister’s director of communications, Chisholm Pothier, said in an email when asked why the premier’s accident wasn’t made public until Friday.
The premier’s office also said earlier that Pallister suffered compound fractures, which mean the bone pierced the skin, but a spokesman later corrected that to say the fracture was comminuted, or there were multiple fractures.
The Gila Wilderness is a 2,200-square kilometre protected area in southwestern New Mexico that offers “forested hills, majestic mountains and range land,” says a United States government website. It is remote and some areas are hard to access, because the wilderness designation includes strict limits on roads and motorized vehicles.
It was designated the world’s first wilderness area in June 1924.
Pallister’s office said he will be resting at home with his family this weekend.
His Progressive Conservative government is scheduled to lay out its legislative plans in a throne speech on Tuesday.
“He … would like to thank police and medical personnel for their quality care,” the premier’s office said in a statement.
— With files from Rob Drinkwater in Edmonton
The premier’s office had said earlier Friday that Pallister suffered compound fractures, which mean the bone pierced the skin, but later corrected that to say there were multiple fractures.
Note to readers: This is a corrected story. An earlier version included information from the premier’s office that said he suffered compound fractures.