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Ice conditions worsen as Great Slave Lake search continues

Sgt Christina Wilkins, left, briefs reporters on the search for three people missing on Great Slave Lake
Sgt Christina Wilkins, left, briefs reporters on the search for three people missing on Great Slave Lake on May 18, 2019. Ollie Williams/Cabin Radio
Sgt Christina Wilkins updates reporters on Friday evening as a fourth day of searching for three missing travellers concludes.

Ice on Great Slave Lake continues to deteriorate as police frantically search by air for three travellers missing somewhere between Dettah and Łutselk’e.

On Saturday the search entered its fifth day. With lake ice threatening to disintegrate in the heat, rescue teams are restricted to aerial surveys only.

One of those surveys identified what police termed “debris” on the ice on Friday. That debris has been recovered for analysis – no further information regarding its nature has been made public.

Police said they had not given up hope of finding 65-year-old Sam Boucher, his 23-year-old daughter Cammy, and a third, as-yet unidentified person alive.



The three were reported overdue on Tuesday, having left Dettah late on Monday evening.

Sam Boucher, who survived for several days alone before being found during a similar search and rescue in 2011, is considered an experienced traveller on the land.

As darkness fell on Friday, police said the search would continue for at least the time being – adding they were “reviewing and evaluating the information gathered to date to determine the plan going forward.”

The Boucher family has been contacted and is being updated by RCMP as efforts continue.



“Our hearts are with the families as we draw to the close of day four. We will continue to support them in this difficult time,” said Staff Sergeant Yannick Hamel, RCMP operations manager in Yellowknife.

Police urged residents not to head out by foot on any search of their own, given the treacherous ice conditions, while acknowledging the same conditions were significantly limiting their own operations.

Instead, a combination of helicopters and planes has covered more than 20,000 km, scouring “almost the entire Great Slave Lake” from the air.

“With increasing temperatures, the ice conditions are deteriorating rapidly,” said Hamel. “So much so that the area of open water we are investigating increased dramatically in size from yesterday to today.”

In 2011, NNSL reported Boucher was missing for several days – at a similar time of year – having helped in a successful search for another community member. He was eventually found, safe and well, approximately 50 km southwest of Łutselk’e.

He had reportedly been towing a disabled snowmobile back to the community when both the disabled machine and his own snowmobile sank, leaving him without transportation.