British Columbia

New search for Kamloops couple whose plane disappeared 2 years ago

The search for a couple whose plane failed to land in Kamloops, B.C., nearly two years ago begins again on Thursday.

Pilot Alex Simons and his girlfriend, Sydney Robillard, have been missing since June 8, 2017

Sydney Robillard, left and Alex Simons, have been missing since June 2017 when their aircraft failed to arrive in Kamloops, B.C.. (Cranbrook RCMP)

The search for a couple whose plane failed to land in Kamloops, B.C., nearly two years ago begins again on Thursday.

Kamloops pilot Alex Simons and his girlfriend, Sydney Robillard, of Lethbridge, Alta., have been missing since June 8, 2017, when Simons took off from Cranbrook on the final leg of a flight to Kamloops from Lethbridge. He was flying a single-engine Piper Warrior.

The initial search for the couple, both in their 20s, covered nearly 40,000 square kilometres of rural, rugged land, largely in the areas of St. Mary Valley and Redding Creek, northwest of Cranbrook.

Natalie Lindgren, a family member of Simons's, organized a three-day search of the region after new information concerning the Piper Warrior came to light.

"It wasn't by choice that we waited this long," Lindgren told Shelley Joyce, host of Daybreak Kamloops.  "It's really difficult to put together a search when you're grieving."

New information

Two months ago, Simons' family was contacted by a drone pilot at the company Aerial Observation Systems in Lethbridge, Alta. which offered its services toward a new search of Simons' plane.

"This isn't our world. So, they are the minds behind the direction of the search, Lindgren said. 

Natalie Lindgren believes photos from ATV drones may capture the area where Alex Simons' plane most likely disappeared differently than aerial cameras did.  (Trevor Lyons/CBC)

Lindgren says the family also received new information from an eyewitness airline pilot who saw a low-flying Piper Warrior fly directly over his property. She says, according to the Cranbrook Flight Service Station, Simons was the only pilot flying a Piper Warrior at the time.

Weather near Cranbrook was deteriorating as Simons and Robillard took off at around 3 p.m. on the day they disappeared, and Lindgren says the eyewitness pilot remembers seeing a Piper Warrior fly over his house at about 3:15, in a line that would have put the plane close to the Lost Dog Valley area north of Kimberley in southeastern B.C.

Ground level view

The initial search ended on its 13th day. Lindgren says the search and rescue team did a thorough search of the area from the sky but did not do a complete ground search due to bad weather. 

"You can't give up ... every single day you wonder where they are. And there are still many unanswered questions," Lindgren said. "There's a portion of the search that we feel needs to really be investigated further."

She believes photos from ATV drones may capture the area differently than aerial cameras did. 

The new search team has the help of two aircraft, two drone companies, an ATV group and a 4x4 truck group. However, Lindren says due to the area's large size, the team is looking for more drone pilot volunteers — particularly those with search and rescue experience.

Listen to the full interview here:

The search for the couple whose plane failed to land in Kamloops, B.C. nearly two years ago begins again on Thursday. 7:19

With files by Daybreak Kamloops and The Canadian Press. 

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