Labrador mourns 3 missing boaters

Crews have scaled back their search for three college students who were swept over a waterfall on Labrador's mighty Churchill River, as residents in their hometowns come to grips with the tragedy.
Ryan Russell, seen here in a picture posted to a Facebook tribute page, was one of three men who are believed to have been killed when a small boat went over Muskrat Falls on Tuesday. ((CBC))

Crews scaled back their search Friday for three college students who were swept over a waterfall on Labrador's mighty Churchill River, as residents in their hometowns came to grips with the tragedy.

Police, meanwhile, said Friday they had recovered three small parts of an 18-foot aluminum boat that the three students are believed to have taken on the Churchill River early Tuesday evening. An eyewitness told police the young men were not wearing life-vests, and that they were swept over Muskrat Falls.

The three men — Ryan Russell of the coastal Labrador town of Charlottetown, Randy Rose of Happy Valley-Goose Bay and Roy Sainsbury, a resident of Cartwright — were all completing a millwright program at the College of the North Atlantic in Happy Valley-Goose Bay. They were 18 or 19.

"The recovery mission is being downsized at this point, as all areas possible have been searched, however the recovery will continue into Saturday and will be evaluated again at that point," RCMP Const. Cara Ludtke said in a statement.

"Once the decision is made to suspend the recovery phase, a plan is already in place with [a ground search and rescue team] and other resources to resume the recovery mission once the water levels drop in the river. If any other possibilities come to light before the river water levels recede, then the recovery mission will be resumed."

Russell, Rose and Sainsbury had been set to graduate from their college program on Friday. That ceremony has now been postponed for a week.

Dwayne Russell, of Charlottetown, Labrador, is a friend of one of the young men missing since a boating accident on the Churchill River Tuesday. ((CBC))

Condolences to the families of the three young men have poured in from across the province, including from Premier Danny Williams.

On Thursday, cars were lined up outside Russell's family's home in Charlottetown, Labrador.

"Oh shocked, I was shocked," said Dwayne Russell, Ryan's lifelong friend. "Just like a bunch of my friends here. I'm pretty upset, it's tough." Ryan Russell was the star goalie for the community's ball hockey team and he loved anything to do with the outdoors.

Ryan Russell left Charlottetown to go to college in Happy Valley-Goose Bay last fall.

His hometown of less than 400 people is feeling the loss.

"It's a small community, everyone is almost family. Everyone knew Ryan, he had a very large family," said Charlottetown Deputy Mayor Lisa Dempster.

The search for the three college students became a recovery mission Thursday afternoon, when officials said there was no chance of finding the young men alive.

Civilian aircraft had joined ground and water search teams to locate any signs of the men. So far, only a pair of running shoes has been located, Ludtke said Friday.