Hay River RCMP are scaling back the active marine search for the four missing fishermen as there remains no signs to date of the missing fishermen. Deteriorating weather conditions are also a factor in the decision to wind down the effort. Community volunteers are continuing to organize further ground searches.
On Sunday, October 6th, four members of the RCMP Underwater Dive Team from Vancouver, and crews from the Canadian Coast Guard, the Hay River Marine Rescue Unit of the Canadian Coast Guard Auxiliary and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans travelled to the site of the submerged vessel, in the Windy Bay area, on Great Slave Lake.
The divers inspected the vessel for any signs of the missing fishermen and the search concluded the fishermen were not with the vessel, or in the immediate vicinity. The vessel was brought to the surface of the lake but the anchor points could not resist the wave action and the vessel sunk back down to the bottom of the lake.
Under the circumstances and with the challenging conditions, a decision was made by RCMP to scale back the marine search, with the families notified of this change. The decision included forecasts of deteriorating weather conditions predicting strong winds, rain and potentially snow in the coming days.
The four fishermen left the commercial dock in Hay River on the morning of Sunday, September 29th. The crew was travelling to Sulphur Point to check on fishing nets and were scheduled to return in the evening. The group was travelling aboard a 33-foot aluminum hull vessel, equipped with a pilothouse, two engines, VHF radio, life jackets and fishing equipment.
On Monday, September 30th, Hay River RCMP initiated a search and rescue operation. Together, an extensive search was conducted including shorelines, cabins and islands in the area.
On Tuesday, October 1st, aircrafts from 440 Squadron and the Civilian Air Search and Rescue Association were deployed. Vessels from the Hay River and Yellowknife Marine Rescue Units of the Canadian Coast Guard Auxiliary and Canadian Coast Guard were engaged in grid searches between Hay River and Sulphur Point.
At approximately 9:00 AM on October 1st, an object was spotted by an aircraft in the area of Windy Bay, which later was confirmed to be the vessel of the missing fishermen. Three debris fields were located in the proximity of the vessel, with fishing equipment recovered from these locations.
On Wednesday, October 2nd, the search continued with the CCG, the CCGA and DFO, who used a Remotely Operated Underwater Vehicle to examine the partially submerged fishing vessel. The inspection of the vessel using a ROV did not show any structural damage and no persons were observed inside the pilothouse.
The efforts of the latest inspection of the vessel, by the Underwater Dive Team, the partner agencies, and the continued air and marine searches, have not yielded the location of the missing fishermen.
The RCMP have been in constant communication with the families of the missing fishermen and have kept them updated on the search efforts. A further aerial search could be scheduled in the coming weeks using CASARA aircraft to inspect the western and the southern shorelines.
Community volunteers have been rallying in the last few days to organize ground searches of the south shore and are planning to continue searching if weather permitting.
RCMP wishes to remind community volunteers to use extreme caution and plan ahead if venturing out on the land or water as the weather conditions may become hazardous and unpredictable.
Should anyone have any information, or see anything that could be related to the missing persons, RCMP request they bring the information to their local detachment. If further evidence comes to light, lifting the marine search suspension may be reevaluated.
Sgt Brandon Humbke, Hay River Detachment NCO stated how grateful the RCMP are to their partner agencies in their courageous efforts to locate these missing men.
“We are also thankful to the citizens of Hay River, in supporting the families that came to be closer during the search efforts. Our thoughts are with the families at this time”.