After an exhaustive search that started on Saturday, June 8, the body of a 21-year-old Kitimat fisherman has been located.
Kitimat Search and Rescue search manager Kelly Marsh said members of the RCMP’s dive team located the body just after 9 a.m. on Monday, June 10, not far from where he had been swept into the river.
Marsh said he was on duty on Saturday when the call came in from the RCMP that a local fisherman was in trouble in the Kitimat River where BC Hydro’s powerlines cross over the river, known as Powerline Road.
He put out a call to search and rescue members, and within minutes eight members of the unit had responded.
He also contacted Summit Helicopters who dispatched a helicopter to assist in the search.
”Within 40 minutes we had three of our members in the air, responding to the area of the incident. We immediately contacted Terrace Swift Water rescue and they dispatched a jet boat with five of their members,” said Marsh.
“We hit the river pretty hard, searching the river all the way from Haisla Bridge up to the powerlines.”
He said Terrace Swift Water members focused on high-probability areas, areas where the fisherman would likely have ended up like log jams and deep holes in the bottom of the river.
“We had an eye witness to the incident so we had a good idea of where to look and where we would concentrate our efforts,” said Marsh.
Where the fisherman was swept into the river is a favourite spot for local fishermen, characterized by a strong current and a back eddy (an eddy forms a swirling pool powered by the current, whereas a back eddy is a place where the current flows backward).
Even though the water was clear and the weather cooperated with clear skies, diminishing daylight forced an end to the search.
On Sunday the search continued, with seven Kitimat Search and Rescue members, two of the members in a fisheries jetboat conducting a shoreline search from the hatchery up to the power lines.
“We also focussed our attention on searching the river from Cable Car up to the power lines. We had good aerial photography from the day before and searched the high probability areas as well,” said Marsh.
Due to the extent of the search area and the number of personnel involved, radio communications were paramount. KSR’s mobile command unit was dispatched along Powerline Road and the radio signal repeater was deployed.
The search continued on into Sunday evening when it was called off, pending the arrival of the RCMP’s diver team which assembled in Kitimat on Monday morning.
“We refocussed the search and went in early. Everyone was on site by 7 a.m.,” said Marsh.
Just after 9 a.m. on Monday a member of the RCMP’s dive team located the body of the fisherman, not far from where he had been swept into the river, in one of the high probability areas.
Marsh said every available resource was committed to the search, immediately after the call was received – close to 20 personnel from different agencies were involved in the search.
“Even though we were hoping for a better outcome, I appreciate all the expertise that was made available for this operation,” he added.
He thanked everyone involved for their support and teamwork, including the Kitimat Search and Rescue members, Terrace Swift Water Rescue, the RCMP dive team, fisheries and hatchery staff, Kitimat RCMP and Kitimat Fire and Ambulance.
Kitimat RCMP spokesperson Cst. Kurtis Fink said Kitimat RCMP’s Victim Services Unit was available to provide access to services and programs available to help someone cope with grief.
“Kitimat RCMP understands that losing a relative, friend, co-worker unexpectedly is not easy and those suffering from such loss are encouraged to reach out and speak to family or friends,” said Fink.
The Victim Services Unit can be contacted at 250-632-7111.