Update: Search called off for missing Salmon Arm man

Andrew Wilson, 24, of Salmon Arm is presumed to have drowned in the Seymour River.

Andrew Wilson

Andrew Wilson

The RCMP and Shuswap Volunteer Search and Rescue (SVSAR) called off the search for 24-year old Andrew Wilson of Salmon Arm late Tuesday afternoon.

Wilson, the son of Lynda and Lorne Wilson of Salmon Arm, had been missing since Monday afternoon after being swept away by currents while swimming in the Seymour River.

RCMP and searchers have concluded that it is unlikely that Wilson survived and he is presumed to have drowned.

Reports indicate that on the morning of June 11 two men, Wilson and a friend,  travelled to Seymour Arm for a day hike to Seymour Falls.

“At some point in the afternoon, one of the men jumped into the Seymour River to cool off and was swept down river,” reads an RCMP press release. “The man’s friend made his way to the nearest logging road and flagged down a grader operator, who in turn contacted a local resident. The resident called 911.”

Chase RCMP initiated an air and ground search of the rugged and remote Seymour area Monday afternoon, continuing in their efforts until it grew dark. The search resumed Tuesday until it was suspended at 4:30 p.m.

SVSAR search manager John Schut says seven members of the group’s white water team took part in the search but were unable to kayak the river as planned.

“The river where he went in is a boiling cauldron of foam and froth and absolutely unsafe for us to go in where he is most likely to be trapped,” says Schut of the area about 15 kilometres upriver from Seymour Arm in the North Shuswap. “We did a test at the waterfall to determine if something going in there would come out, and had a 90 per cent probability that it wouldn’t. We had only a five per cent chance he would be found.”

However, Search and Rescue conducted shoreline searches down the length of the river, except in a couple of canyon areas that were deemed to be too dangerous. A boat team searched the river’s outflow as well.

“It is always difficult not to find a person, and we know it’s hard for the family because we know what they are hoping for,” said Schut. “We hope when the water goes down maybe we can go back and look again. That’s all we can do.”

Schut says searchers had marvellous co-operation with the RCMP and that “local people went above and beyond in their helpfulness,” by communicating with witnesses and searching the river banks before search and rescue teams arrived on scene.

“Seymour Arm resident Don Honeychurch acted as a guide for us and a bed and breakfast put us up for the night,” he says.

Chase RCMP along with an RCMP air services helicopter and an RCMP dive team joined members of the Shuswap Volunteer Search and Rescue in the search effort.

Sgt. Gary Heebner with the Chase Detachment says search and rescue volunteers did the best they could in very rugged terrain, trying to search out all the pools and eddies.

But searchers agreed the RCMP helicopter that flew up and down the river proved to have the best vantage point.

“The helicopter was, by far, the most effective way to search,” Heebner says. “It could travel much more quickly.”

Like SVSAR, Heebner says as water level starts to recede, the RCMP will continue to have a helicopter go up and continue the search effort.

And, he adds a timely caution: “Enjoy the views of the river but do not go in,” he says. “Even though it looks calm, it is never calm underneath. The eddies and currents are too dangerous right now.”