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Search on waters of Great Slave Lake for missing fishers suspended as weather worsens


RCMP in Hay River said they are scaling back a marine search for four missing fishers who disappeared on September 30.

There have been no signs of men, who include Stacy Linington, a 59-year-old from Hay River, and three fishers from the area of Lesser Slave Lake, Alberta: 51-year-old Daniel Courtoreille, 50-year-old Michael Courtoreille, and Jason Fulton, 40.

In a press release Monday, Hay River RCMP said "deteriorating weather conditions" have impacted their decision to wind down the search. Forecasts are predicting strong wind, rain, and possibly snow in the coming days.

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However, community volunteers are continuing to search the shorelines in the southern arm of Great Slave Lake. Due to potentially dangerous weather, police are asking volunteers to "use extreme caution and plan ahead."

On Sunday, four RCMP on the underwater dive team from Vancouver, along with members of the Canadian Coast Guard, the Hay River Marine Rescue Unit of the Canadian Coast Guard Auxiliary, and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans travelled to the Windy Bay area of the lake where the boat was submerged.

The divers searched the boat and found no signs of the fishermen in or near the vessel.

The team tried to bring the boat to the top of the lake, but the anchor points couldn't hold in the waves and the boat sunk again.

The fishers had left Hay River's commercial dock on Sunday, September 29 to check fishing nets at Sulphur Point.

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RCMP said the men were travelling in a 33-foot aluminum hull vessel, equipped with a pilot house, two engines, VHF radio, life jackets, and fishing equipment.

On Monday when they had not returned, Hay River RCMP, along with the Joint Rescue Command Center (JRCC) from Trenton and 440 Squadron from Yellowknife began a search and rescue mission. The Canadian Coast Guard and a Transport Canada plane with infrared technology also joined the search.

The extensive search covered shorelines, cabins, and islands in the area where they were believed to have gone missing.

On Tuesday, planes from the 440 Squadron and the Civilian Air Search and Rescue Association, as well as the JRCC's Hercules aircraft and Griffon helicopter were sent to join the search as boats from the Hay River and Yellowknife Marine Rescue Units of the Canadian Coast Guard Auxiliary and Canadian Coast Guard conducted grid searches of the lake between Hay River and Sulphur Point.

That morning around 9am, one of the planes spotted the boat near Windy Bay. A closer search revealed three debris fields near the vessel, including fishing equipment.

On Wednesday, the search team brought in a remotely operated underwater vehicle (ROV) to examine the partially submerged boat. The ROV did not find the fishermen, nor did it find any structural damage.

Families travel to Hay River during search for loved ones

RCMP say they have been in "constant communication" with the families of the four missing men, many of whom have travelled to Hay River from Alberta. The local friendship centre has been supplying meals and a place to relax as well as gathering donations to help alleviate the costs to families as the search is ongoing.

“We are extremely grateful to our partner agencies in their courageous efforts to locate these missing men, assisting us in many ways," stated Sgt Brandon Humbke with the Hay River RCMP. "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."

Police continue appeal for information

Police stated another aerial search "could be scheduled" within the coming weeks to inspect the southern and western shores of the lake.

Anyone who has information or sees anything related to the missing people should bring it to their local detachment, the RCMP stated in Monday's press release. "If further evidence comes to light, lifting the marine search suspension may be re-evaluated," police stated.

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