Families create legacy for lost loved ones

Three families are turning personal loss into a legacy in honour of their loved ones.

Memories: Calgarian John Poole and his wife

Memories: Calgarian John Poole and his wife

Three families are turning personal loss into a legacy in honour of their loved ones.

The non-profit Legacy Water Search and Recovery Society has been formed by families of three individuals who drowned in two separate incidents in the B.C. Interior this spring.

Josh Crittenden’s 59-year-old stepfather, John Poole, went missing on May 1 near Eagle Bay.

Poole was last heard from at about 1 p.m. Tuesday, April 30 when he text-messaged his wife with a picture of himself near Copper Island.

A week later an official search was called off and although family and friends scoured the shoreline on foot and in boats, Poole’s body remained missing.

Feeling defeated and with a deep sense of loss, Crittenden had a chance encounter that led to the recovery of his stepfather’s body and an organization devoted to helping others.

“I ran into a radio reporter from Kamloops who told me about a couple from Idaho, who had located the bodies of two young men in Nicola Lake,” he says, noting he called Gene and Sandy Ralston, who volunteer their time and their specialized sonar equipment to find missing people in lakes. “I called them basically 10 minutes later and they said, ‘we’ll come.’”

Crittenden says he had been aware there was an application for sonar equipment but not that the Ralstons from Idaho volunteer their equipment and time at no charge.

“We were crushed to think we would never get John out of the water, but before they even got there, we finally had a sense of hope,” says Crittenden, noting the Ralstons searched for six-and-a-half days before finding Poole’s body. “That was the start behind the inspiration for what we’ve done.”

Not only did the Ralstons come to look for Poole, so did family and friends of 18-year-old Brendan Wilson and 17-year-old Austin Kingsborough, who drowned in Nicola Lake April 20.

“They were also in the same boat of wanting to pay it forward and to provide support for our family because they had just gone through it,” Crittenden says.

Awed by the Ralstons’ selfless actions and bonded through their shared experiences, the three families formed the Legacy Water Search and Recovery Society with a board of directors and a focus on raising some $350,000 needed to purchase sonar equipment for the province.

The plan is to have the equipment and trained volunteers available to find other families’ loved ones.

“When you lose a loved one, the thought of never recovering them is dreadful,” says Crittenden, whose family still owns a home on Wild Rose Bay. “The Shuswap would never have been the same if we had not got John out of the lake.”

Crittenden says the families have been in touch with others who have had similar experiences, are putting together a business plan and are trying to collect donations form corporations and private citizens.

“Our priority is to get charitable tax status,” he says. “We have a lot of people who want to give sizeable donations.”

For more information, visit the group’s website at www.legacywatersearch.com.