British Columbia

Irish father thanks volunteer and rescue dog for finding son's body in B.C.

The family of a drowned 26-year-old Irish man, whose body was recovered north of Revelstoke on Saturday after several failed search attempts, is grateful to the man and the dog that found him.

'We feel fortunate that we have found him ... They tell us the landscape here is very unforgiving'

A volunteer with the Canadian Canine Search Corps and his dog Koda were the pair that found David after a request from the family for help. (Brian Harmes/Canadian Canine Search Corps)

The family of a 26-year-old Irish man believed drowned last June are grateful to the volunteer and his dog, Koda, who found David Gavin's body north of Revelstoke after the heartbreak of several failed attempts.

Koda is one of a handful of so-called cadaver dogs in Canada.

The dog found the missing Gaelic footballer April 28, just four days after the young man's family returned to B.C. hoping for closure — for the third time.

Gavin was swimming on June 30, 2017 when he jumped off a bridge into a creek and disappeared.

The man's father, Michael (Mick) Gavin, said family members flew to Canada for the first time last July, but they were forced to return home twice without finding the body.

Gavin said his son's loved ones are overwhelmed with relief and want to thank all who aided their search.

"We are happy in a weird sense that we have got some closure."

"We just couldn't imagine what it would be like to leave Canada again without him. It would be very final this time," he said in a phone interview from Golden B.C.

David Gavin, 26, was presumed drowned after diving from a bridge near Golden, B.C. His body was found on April 28, 2018 after several failed search attempts over the past year. (Breaffy GAA/Facebook)

RCMP and commercial divers searches were hindered by high water levels in the reservoir on the Columbia River.

This month, a volunteer team with specially trained dogs returned to the area of Kinbasket Lake, 166 kilometres north of Revelstoke.

It would be very final this time- Michael Gavin, father of David Gavin about his relief his son's body was found.

Brian Harmes is part of that group.

The Calgary-area volunteer joined the Canadian Canine Search Corps three years ago after finding his dog Koda at a SPCA shelter.

He tried to locate Gavin in August and April after the family asked for help.

On Saturday, Koda had success.

Harmes said thinking about that moment is overwhelming.

The Canadian Canine Search Corps, a volunteer group from Alberta, spent weeks searching for David Gavin in the Kinbasket Lake area north of Golden B.C., after he disappeared on June 30, 2017. (Canadian Canine Search Corps)

"I have a rush of emotion and goose bumps right now just talking about it. That's why we do this," said Harmes.

His group spends 350 hours training each year and survives by donations.

He believes there are no more than a dozen dogs certified to find human remains in Canada.

Finding a body in water is one of the most difficult recovery searches, said Harmes.

"It is a complicated puzzle doing this type of work," he said.

Discarded family dog

And it takes a certain kind of dog.

Koda, a rescue mutt that Harmes picked to train for search and rescue work, has an obvious "drive to work" when Harmes rescued the dog from a SPCA shelter in Red Deer.

I have a rush of emotion and goose bumps right now just talking about it- Brian Harmes, Koda's owner

Harmes said he's a 3½-year-old Australian Kelpie-Blue Heeler mix.

He'd been surrendered by a family who warned that he was "a handful."

Brian Harmes with his dog Koda. The pair volunteer with the Canadian Canine Search Corps, a small volunteer K9 group that trains for 350 hours each year. (Canadian Canine Search Corps)

But his temperament, energy and laser focus is why Harmes picked him.

He used a tennis ball to test Koda at the shelter.

"He was very, very focused on the toy and didn't care about anything else. That was my indication that he was going to work out just fine."​

For David Gavin's father, Koda ended almost a year of heart-breaking wait.

The soft-spoken Irishman was reticent to say much about the shy son he lost who loved the outdoors and had only recently arrived in Canada to start a new life with his partner.

"We feel fortunate that we have found him against the odds. They tell us the landscape here is very unforgiving," said Gavin.

"We feel fortunate that we have this opportunity to take him home."

David Gavin had been working for Telus in Vancouver before his disappearance. (LinkedIn)


Yvette Brend is a Vancouver journalist.