Public asked to watch for signs of drowning victim 

Cheakamus River needs to drop before search resumes


RCMP has posted laminated signs at popular put-in spots along the Cheakamus River asking recreational kayakers to keep an eye out for human activity following a drowning.

It has been confirmed the deceased man and still-missing woman who is presumed dead after falling into the Cheakamus River while fly fishing with a guide near Whistler the afternoon of Saturday, Aug. 6 were Lower Mainland residents.

Another search for the missing woman's body was conducted on Tuesday.

"We have searched extensively up and down the Cheakamus River from the point where they went into the water right down into Daisy Lake," said Whistler RCMP staff sergeant Steve LeClair.

Though names have not been released, LeClair confirmed that the families have been notified. The family of the male told RCMP that he was a strong swimmer.

The female was 25 years old and the male was 30 years old.

Both were wearing chest height waders when they entered the water.

LeClair said the pair was fishing with a female guide in ankle deep water when the woman hooked a fish and staggered forward. Her male companion followed and both fell into deeper, faster moving water further into the river. The guide followed the two as far as possible down the bank before losing sight of them and calling emergency services for help. The male's body was recovered 90 minutes later. It's not considered likely the woman survived.

"With absolutely no sign of the missing person we put two kayakers in the water, those kayakers went down river searching in all of the areas where a person might get trapped and went as far as they could until it because no longer feasible to kayak and further search by kayak would not have proved fruitful anyway," said LeClair.

RCMP and Search and Rescue volunteers halted the search at 12:15 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 7. They had combed a seven-kilometer stretch of river, although Whistler Search and Rescue president Brad Sills said the woman's body was likely located within the first few kilometers of where she entered the river.

"We feel she is submerged, trapped underneath a log or another natural feature in the river and we're going to wait until the river drops till we can do some more searching by kayak," said LeClair.

To release a body trapped below the surface river levels needs to drop, requiring a cold night or day.

"What we're having right now are warm days and warm nights," said Sills. "What we need is something to change so the water levels go down because typically what happens is things get hung up on rocks and if the pressure remains equal then nothing changes, you need a fluctuation in the pressure and the level in order to dislodge objects."

This is the first fishing-related incident of drowning Sills has seen in 33 years of search and rescue.

"I would say that it's (the river) flowing at a moderate level, I think its just a very unfortunate circumstance - she lost her footing and went in and he followed suit," he said. "It's quite tragic, actually."

The search extended along the Cheakamus River from the footbridge at the Sea to Sky Trail to its outflow in Daisy Lake. LeClair confirmed the water in which the woman and man were fishing was relatively calm but changed quickly downstream.

"Where they were fishing was somewhat benign and then further down the river it becomes quite dangerous and the water is quite cold as well," he said. "There are logs, there is deadfall, that sort of thing. It's quite hazardous."

A commercial fishing guide contacted Whistler RCMP on Saturday, advising that two of her clients had fallen in the Cheakamus River and were swept away by the fast-moving current. The temperature of the water is an estimated four to five degrees Celsius.

The incident happened about three kilometres east of Highway 99, 20 kilometres south of Whistler.



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