Kayaker presumed drowned on Cheakamus River 

Celebration of Peter Thompson's life scheduled for Saturday near Calgary

click to enlarge PHOTO BY LIANE GERMAINE - Still missing Experienced kayaker Peter Thompson in action on the Bow River in the Johnston Canyon area near Banff, Alberta, in June 2011. Thompson went missing on the Cheakamus River on Sept. 28.
  • Photo by Liane Germaine
  • Still missing Experienced kayaker Peter Thompson in action on the Bow River in the Johnston Canyon area near Banff, Alberta, in June 2011. Thompson went missing on the Cheakamus River on Sept. 28.

At the age of 19, Peter Thompson excelled at paddling a kayak.

"He was paddling some of the most challenging rivers," said former employer, Rob McIntyre, adding that Thompson's work with the Bow Valley Kayak Club was inspiring.

McIntyre described Thompson as mature beyond his years

A Facebook memorial page is filled with notes and photos from friends who were familiar with his skills on the river.

Thompson was last seen on Friday, Sept. 28 while he was paddling with two friends on the Cheakamus River.

His accomplishments include a first descent of the 30.5 metres (100-feet) Ram Falls in Alberta and kayaking the Nile and Zambezi Rivers.

"I'd have to say my greatest achievement is coaching/instructing a sledge hockey team on a two-day paddling course," Thompson wrote in his biography on a sponsor's website. "It was super inspiring to see those guys rip it up and have a ton of fun on the water despite all the hardships that they needed to overcome."

Thompson was on the Cheakamus upstream of Cheakamus Crossing, about 3.5km from Highway 99, when he reportedly went over a small waterfall and never resurfaced. According to an account of the situation on Thompson's memorial page, Thompson and his friends had paddled that drop twice earlier in the week.

"He went under the water and did not resurface," reported Staff Sergeant Steve LeClair. "His friends attempted to locate him but were unsuccessful in doing so. Police, fire, ambulance and Whistler Search and Rescue all attended. However, were unable to locate the male or his kayak."

Thompson's paddle was retrieved on Friday and his personal floatation device was discovered Saturday morning.

Sgt. Rob Knapton said the RCMP was initially called Friday at 5:27 p.m. and a search effort was launched until darkness made it impossible to continue. Knapton said a helicopter was brought in the next day to conduct an aerial search. Both banks of the river were searched on foot Saturday.

Swift water techniques were used to probe the area where Thompson was last seen.

"SAR members in kayaks also paddled the river in an attempt to locate the missing subject," said LeClair. "The RCMP Underwater Recovery Team attended to assess the area and utilized cameras mounted on poles in an effort to locate the male."

Searchers concluded Thompson was trapped at the base of the waterfall and have presumed he drowned.

"Search efforts will continue as the river level subsides in the coming weeks," reported LeClair.

A celebration of Thompson's life is scheduled for Hector Lodge in Exshaw, near Calgary on Saturday, Oct. 6.

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