Marine searches for missing fishermen scaled back; community volunteers ‘rallying’ in search effort

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An exhaustive, days-long search for four missing fishermen on Great Slave Lake has been scaled back after numerous aerial and underwater probes failed to locate the missing individuals, say Hay River RCMP, one of several agencies involved in the far-reaching search and rescue operation.

Daniel Courtoreille, 51, Michael Courtoreille, 50, Jason Fulton, 40, and Stacy Linington, 59 have been missing after departing Hay River’s commercial dock on Sept. 29 to check fishing nets at Sulphur Point, on the south shore of Great Slave Lake. The group was reported overdue to RCMP in the early hours of Sept. 30 after failing to arrive back before nightfall on Sept. 29.

The fishermen were travelling aboard a 33-foot aluminum hull vessel, “equipped with a pilot house, two engines, VHF radio, life jackets and fishing equipment,” according to RCMP.

On Oct. 1,  RCMP spotted a submerged craft near Windy Bay, but  found no sign of the missing fishermen. It was later confirmed the vessel had been used by the four men.

On Sunday, four members of the Vancouver-based  RCMP Underwater Dive Team, along with crews from the Canadian Coast Guard and the Hay River Marine Rescue Unit of the Canadian Coast Guard Auxiliary (CCGA) and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) travelled to the submerged vessel in the Windy Bay area, stated a news release issued by RCMP on Monday.

The divers inspected the vessel, but found no signs of the missing fishermen. The vessel was brought to the water’s surface, but sank 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,” states Monday’s news release from RCMP.

“The decision included forecasts of deteriorating weather conditions predicting strong winds, rain and potentially snow in the coming days,” continued the news release.

Police added a further aerial search could be scheduled in the coming weeks with the help of a CASARA aircraft to inspect the western and the southern shorelines of Great Slave Lake.

“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,” states the news release, adding, “RCMP wish 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.”

Anyone with information about the missing fishermen is asked to call their local RCMP detachment.

“If further evidence comes to light, lifting the marine search suspension may be reevaluated,” state RCMP.

““We are extremely grateful to our partner agencies in their courageous efforts to locate these missing men, assisting us in many ways. We are also thankful to the citizens of Hay River, in supporting the families that came up to be closer during the search efforts.  Our thoughts are with the families at this time” states Sgt. Brandon Humbke.

Updates to follow. 

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As the Yellowknifer’s crime reporter, it’s my job to keep readers up to speed on all-things “cops and courts” related. From house fires and homicides to courtroom clashes, it’s my responsibility to be there - day or night, rain or shine. When I’m not at court gathering stories, I’m in the office, making calls to lawyers, emailing RCMP and tracking down sources. After hours, I rely on the public to let me know what’s happening and where. Entering my second winter in Yellowknife since leaving my hometown of Peterborough, Ont., in October 2017, everyday on this beat continues to be challenging, rewarding and fulfilling. Got a story? Call me at (867) 766-8288 or shoot me an email at editorial@nnsl.com.

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