Thomas Dennis (second from left) is seen in this undated photograph with some of his grandchildren. (Facebook photo)

Thomas Dennis (second from left) is seen in this undated photograph with some of his grandchildren. (Facebook photo)

Search suspended for Indigenous elder last seen mushroom picking in northwest B.C.

Mushroom picker Thomas (Tommy) Dennis has been missing since Sept. 16

The past few days have been a blur for the youngest daughter of Thomas (Tommy) Dennis, after her dad vanished after going mushroom picking near Kitwanga nearly two weeks ago.

“I’m going to hold on hope until I find out otherwise,” Marilyn Morrison said Monday afternoon (Sept. 28).

“I mean, I never, ever want to think anything bad has happened to my dad. There’s some things you can’t control or see coming, but I’m just holding on.”

Despite extensive search efforts by RCMP and Search and Rescue (SAR), there has been no trace of Dennis, 79, who was last seen by another mushroom picker at 12:30 p.m. near the Price Creek Forest Service Road on Sept. 16.

North District RCMP media relations officer Cpl. Madonna Saunderson confirmed search efforts were suspended by police and SAR on Sept. 27, but the family and local civilian search teams continue to comb the area east of Price Creek (Gitwangak) south of Hwy 16.

Morrison said her dad, a relative beginner in terms of mushroom picking, took up the activity to assist in complementing his pension and pay bills.

Read More: Searchers release photo of what Tommy Dennis was wearing when he went missing last week

Over the course of the last two weeks, Saunderson said RCMP including Police Dog Services and Air Services along with SAR and local community members conducted extensive ground and air searches with negative results.

“Upwards of 25 to 30 SAR volunteers, and other independent searchers were involved on any given day,” Saunderson told Black Press Media.

“Representatives from Gitwangak, and various other local First Nation communities supported the search. Variable specialties from SAR including trackers, swift water rescue, and a private drone operator also supported in the search.”

Terrace SAR search manager, David Jephson said their members were on the ground for at least seven days assisting other SAR teams from across northern B.C. including Houston, Prince Rupert, Smithers, Burns Lake and Prince George.

Jephson said the large community presence had also brought its own initial challenges, adding that early in the search RCMP were using a helicopter equipped for thermal imaging.

“When you have all those random people walking in the forest it’s pretty tough to find who you are looking for and to rule stuff out…” he said.

Read More: Witset now reporting 14 cases of COVID-19, remains in lockdown

Dennis, who is believed to have difficulty hearing, was last seen wearing blue jeans, black cap, rubber boots and a grey checked sweater.

New Hazelton RCMP said he was not prepared to be out overnight and does not have any food or provisions, and was only wearing lightweight clothing.

Firewood and tents have been donated for a search camp, which has been erected near the Price Creek Forest Service Road, as civilians continue search efforts.

“It blows me away the caring that people have and the willingness to give just out of the kindness of their hearts,” Morrison said.


Do you have a comment about this story? email:
rebecca.dyok@wltribune.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

First Nationsmissing person

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

B.C's COVID-19 dashboard shows the peaks and valleys of cases prior to the record daily report of 132 on April 9, 2021. (Dashboard image)
Interior Health has record day of COVID-19 cases

132 cases reported Friday, April 9, more deaths in Vernon hospital outbreak

School District 83 trustees are leaning towards an option in the school district’s Long Range Facilities Plan that favours making Salmon Arm Secondary’s Sullivan campus and Jackson campus (pictured) both Grade 9-12 schools. (Google maps image)
Letter: Two high school option for Salmon Arm will create ‘have, have not’ situation

Writer concerned with E5 option, says transparent talk about implications needed

Left, Elena Bruns (2015 Rapattack Junior recruit/current Rapattack staff) and Leah Nash (2019 Rapattack Junior recruit/current Rapattack staff) in a helicopter on the Eagle Bluff Fire, August 2019. (Kamloops Fire Centre photo)
Salmon Arm students stick with wildfire fighting after junior Rapattack program

Junior Fire Crew program partners with Salmon Arm Secondary, develops students’ love for job

Work began April 6, 2021 on the Trans-Canada Highway downtown corridor project to improve safety and traffic flow, which will see the traffic light at Ross Street relocated to Fourth Street NE. (Martha Wickett - Salmon Arm Observer)
VIDEO: Traffic slow downs to go through May on Salmon Arm highway corridor

Ministry says night work not planned on Highway 1, single lanes to remain as traffic light changed

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix and Premier John Horgan describe vaccine rollout at the legislature, March 29, 2021. (B.C. government)
1,262 more COVID-19 infections in B.C. Friday, 9,574 active cases

Province’s mass vaccination reaches one million people

Vernon Secondary School. (Google Maps)
Case of COVID-19 at North Okanagan high school

VSS exposure announced late Friday, April 9

Librarian Katie Burns with the Fraser Valley Regional Libraries poses for a photo in Chilliwack on June 18, 2019. Monday, April 12, 2021 is Library Workers’ Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of April 11 to 17

Library Workers Day, That Sucks! Day, and Wear Your Pyjamas to Work Day are all coming up this week

The Royal’s 1951 visit to Revelstoke. (Photo by Revelstoke Museum and Archives #17)
PHOTOS: Prince Philip visited Revelstoke – twice

The prince died April 9 at the age of 99

Nolan's Pharmasave in downtown Vernon received 200 AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines Friday, April 9, 2021. (Brendan Shykora - Morning Star)
AstraZeneca vaccines arrive at Vernon pharmacies

Four pharmacies in the city received doses of the COVID-19 inoculant Friday

The RCMP were called to the Alchemy Studio on Thursday, April 8. (Contributed)
Revelstoke yoga class fined for defying COVID-19 orders

The RCMP were called to the Alchemy Studio on April 8

An East Hill resident had their leaf bags torched in front of their home overnight April 8. Less than two weeks prior their garbage can was lit on fire too. (Taryn Allen photo)
Garbage, leaf fires spark fear in North Okanagan

First an East Hill residents’ trash can, then bagged leaves were lit on fire

Okanagan-based All Are Family Outreach Society, which provides support to those struggling from Armstrong to Kelowna, is in need of a new headquarters after leaving a Winfield church in June 2020. (All Are Family Outreach photo)
Okanagan outreach society in ‘desperate’ need after storage unit break-in

All Are Family Outreach had $4,000 in tools stolen from its donation shipping container

Most Read