Calgary

Crews search Calgary rivers for bodies in annual multi-agency effort

Calgary police, fire and search and rescue personnel went out on the Bow River on Thursday to look for people who have been reported missing over the course of the year.

'We employ different search tactics ensuring that we cover off the most probable areas'

Bradley Maxwell with the Calgary Search and Rescue Association says crews are highly trained to carry out operations such as the annual river search, now in its fifth year. (CBC)

Calgary police, fire and search and rescue personnel went out on the Bow River on Thursday to look for evidence related to people who have been reported missing over the course of the past year.

The annual operation is done at this time of year because the water is low, but not too low for the search boats, said homicide unit Staff Sgt. Martin Schiavetta.

"It is an unfortunate reality that of the roughly 5,000 missing persons reported to police annually, a small number have voluntarily or involuntarily entered our waterways and have not been able to get out," police said in a release.

Schiavetta says although crews have never turned up human remains in the annual search, he believes it's a worthwhile initiative that has the potential to provide answers to family and friends of missing loved ones.      

The Calgary Police Service, the Calgary Fire Department, RCMP and the Calgary Search and Rescue Association team up for the search, which starts at the Bearspaw dam and moves downstream through the city. Search and rescue teams from Cochrane and Foothills also lent their assistance Thursday for the fifth annual search.

Aerial searches are also done on the Elbow River and the Glenmore Reservoir.

Bradley Maxwell, a community relations director for search and rescue, says crews are trained to spot anything out of the ordinary.

"We employ different search tactics ensuring that we cover off the most probable areas in a very professional manner," he said.

"Things that stand out will be things that don't belong there. It could be an article of clothing, it could be a watch. It could be anything that doesn't necessarily belong in nature," he said.

Maxwell says police are always called in to take over from the moment something significant is found.

Should any remains be retrieved, police would work with the Medical Examiner's Office to determine the identity of the individual and determine whether a criminal offence was committed, police said.

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