Ontario police have identified the body of a man located in the Ottawa River as that of Samuel Eli Christiansen.
The discovery was made on the afternoon of June 27 following a combined five-day search involving the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) Aviation Unit, Underwater Search and Recovery Unit and Emergency Response Team.
The Terrace-born 20-year old and a friend were swimming in the Ottawa River when they were caught by rapids and swept away. The unidentified second swimmer made it back to shore safely and called for help.
Sam’s mother, Sherelyn Lachapelle Christiansen, posted a message on Facebook to thank all involved in the search.
“We would like to extend our heartfelt thanks to the Ontario Provincial Police, the Whitewater Region Fire Department, the military’s Search and Rescue personnel, JRCC, his entire RCD / CAF Family and the Ottawa Valley paddling community who we know have been searching day and night for Samuel. Our thanks also go to Quebec Hydro for assisting the search by restricting their dam operations. Thank you for finding our son. We have received a flood of support from our home community, Ottawa Valley and right across Canada and beyond which has meant a great deal and are very grateful.”
Sam was an experienced outdoorsman and a Trooper with the Royal Canadian Dragoons as part of the regular force at CFB Petawawa in Ontario.
“The Petawawa military community is mourning the tragic loss of one of our own,” Colonel Michael Wright, Commander 2 CMBG said in a statement. “On behalf of 2 Canadian Mechanized Brigade Group, I offer our deepest condolences to the Christiansen family, and to his fellow Dragoons who are grieving the loss of a comrade and friend. Samuel Christiansen was proud to serve his country and his loss will be profoundly felt by the Petawawa military community.”
The Caledonia Senior Secondary graduate appeared numerous times in the Terrace Standard for sports and educational accomplishments, but most mostly for his achievements with the 747 Terrace Air Cadets. In 2015 he was presented with the inaugural Terrace Steel Aerospace Award from the Royal Canadian Legion Branch No. 13 for his outstanding performance as a cadet in the 747 Squadron.
Two years prior Sam was awarded the prestigious Lord Strathcona Medal, the highest award that can be given to a cadet.
The tragedy this week occurred on a section of rapids on the Ottawa River near the Whitewater Region Township, Ontario.
Upon receiving a call for help from Sam’s friend, the OPP, area fire departments and county paramedics assisted in the initial search, led by professional whitewater rafters familiar with the area. The Joint Rescue Coordination Centre later dispatched two helicopters with forward-looking infrared technology.
The search continued through the weekend to Tuesday, June 26, with ground searches and additional support from an OPP helicopter and underwater search and recovery unit.
By Wednesday Hydro Quebec temporarily lowered the river levels to assist the underwater search efforts.
On the afternoon of June 28 Sam’s body was found in the vicinity of the rapids that swept him away.