No evidence of missing swimmers on Harrison Lake

Two men left inflatable raft to swim ashore and never returned during outing on Harrison Lake June 8

Two Vancouver men left a dinghy on Harrison Lake and have been missing ever since.

On Monday, June 8, a group of eight friends decided to beat the heat by floating in a dinghy on Harrison Lake. Two of the friends decided to leave the inflatable raft to swim ashore, approximately 400 metres north of the boat rental dock in front of the Harrison Hot Springs Resort & Spa.

At approximately 5:45 p.m. that evening, RCMP received a report that the two men, aged 23 and 25, had not been seen since leaving the dingy.

RCMP, Kent Harrison Search and Rescue (KHSAR) and Chilliwack Search and Rescue conducted a search. KHSAR deployed two boats, two seadoos and most of their membership, to search eight square kilometres of Harrison Lake, the shoreline and the Harrison River down to Morris Slough. They were assisted by Chilliwack Search and Rescue who sent a ground crew of five, who searched the Sandy Cove trail and area. Lat in the evening, a side-scan sonar search was conducted around the mouth of the Harrison River without success.

The search continued all day Tuesday, June 9 with more searching of the lake and river, with help from one of the individuals who had been on the raft.

“One of the subjects who was on the raft was taken out onto the lake in an attempt to get a better location of where the two missing men were last seen,” says Neil Brewer, KHSAR team manager.

The closest land from that point was 400 metres away. SAR volunteers remained on the water until 5 p.m. Tuesday, June 9. According to RCMP, after exhausting all efforts to locate the missing swimmers, RCMP suspended their search that day on the water.

“The area is immense and after a thorough search the missing men have not been found” said Sgt. J.D. Fredette of Agassiz Community Policing Office.

After discussions with RCMP’s underwater recovery team, KHSAR was requested to use their side scan sonar to search the lakebed on Wednesday, June 10 in the approximate area where the two subjects were last seen. Nothing was found and the search was suspended.

Brewer says as of Wednesday afternoon, KHSAR had put in 225 hours of time into the search, with another 25 or so by Chilliwack SAR members.

Cpl. Mike Rail, RCMP spokesman, urges caution for people who want to enjoy the great outdoors.

“Outdoor tragedies are becoming far too common place this summer,” stated Cpl. Rail. “RCMP would like to remind visitors to our area to be aware of their limitations and the environment while enjoying activities in our region.”

KHSAR also urges caution to water users, and would also like to remind everyone who ventures out onto the water to wear a personal flotation device.

The group of six remaining friends in the dingy had actually called for help earlier in the afternoon because of their drifting dinghy. KHSAR was paged at 2:45 p.m. after the group’s inflatable ‘raft’ got blown away from the Harrison Resort dock by strong winds. They were rescued by KHSAR volunteers on the ‘Spirit of Harrison’ boat and returned the boaters to their rental unit in Harrison. It was only a few hours later, when the group had  still not seen their missing friends who had left the dinghy to swim ashore, that they again called for assistance.

“What the caller neglected to mention during the raft rescue was that there were actually eight people on board and that two young men in their twenties had left the raft and attempted to swim ashore,” says Brewer. “The remaining six on the raft assumed that they had reached the shore.”

The names of the missing swimmers have not been released by RCMP.

KHSAR had another callout last Sunday, June 14 to assist BC Ambulance in evacuating a female subject from Bridal Falls. She had fallen and sustained an injury. SAR volunteers worked with Popkum firefighters to lower the woman down to the trail and transport her to a waiting ambulance using a litter and wheel.