Aircraft, search teams scour Highwood River for missing man

Aircraft and search and rescue teams are at the Highwood River east of Okotoks after a young man was caught up in the river Sunday.

Justin McNeil, 19, of Glace Bay, N.S., was caught up in current Sunday and disappeared

Justin McNeil is missing after going for a swim in the fast-moving Highwood River on Sunday. (Courtesy McNeil family)

Aircraft and search and rescue teams are at the Highwood River east of Okotoks looking for a young man who disappeared into the water Sunday.

Justin McNeil, 19, is from Glace Bay, N.S., and was with four friends at a popular swimming spot near the closed Nature's Hideaway Campground in Sunday evening. He went for a swim in the Highwood River near its merge point with the Bow River and was almost immediately caught up in the current.

While Okotoks and Turner Valley RCMP began searching after getting the call that evening, McNeil's family has criticized them for not calling in local search teams sooner.

Wednesday was the first time the local Foothills Search and Rescue team were involved with RCMP efforts to find McNeil.

There were 23 members on the ground Wednesday morning, working in teams of three to search both sides of the Highwood and Bow rivers over a 10-kilometre stretch.

The banks have been eroded in several areas, making the terrain rugged and dangerous.

The teams likely will not return to search again until the river levels come down.

RCMP say they are doing the best they can and have been searching the area with a drone.

An RCMP helicopter search was supposed to take place Wednesday morning but has been delayed, possibly until Thursday, as the helicopter was tied up.

The McNeil family has also arranged for aircraft to search the area but it's not certain when that will take place.

Police are reminding people that recent downpours have made river water cold, fast-moving and full of silt and debris.

Everyone is advised to use caution around rivers and their banks.