Calgary

Agencies scour Calgary rivers in search of human remains

The initiative coincides with low water levels and allows police, search and rescue and the fire department to potentially close some missing persons cases and bring closure to families and friends.

It's an annual operation that coincides with low water levels in the city

A crew takes part in a search of the Bow River on Thursday, part of an annual sweep looking for bodies. (Mike Symington/CBC)

For the fourth year in a row, agencies have partnered to sweep the Bow River in Calgary to search for human remains. 

The initiative coincides with low water levels and allows police, search and rescue and the fire department to potentially close some missing persons cases and bring closure to families and friends.

The Calgary Police Service, RCMP, Calgary Fire Department and the Calgary Search and Rescue Association are taking part in the exercise on Thursday. 

"We've recognized that obviously with the current water level, this is a really good opportunity for us to get into areas that we haven't before, and through the collaboration with CFD and some of their equipment, we're really able to do that," said Staff Sgt. Martin Schiavetta of the homicide unit, which keeps track of missing persons cases. 

The search usually involves helicopters but those were grounded on Thursday morning due to the fog. 

20 outstanding cases

This year, the search will also include a portion of the Elbow River and the Glenmore Reservoir.

The Bow River search stretches from Bearspaw Dam in the northwest all the way to the city limits in the south. 

An RCMP helicopter will follow the river all the way to the Saskatchewan border. 

"It's just one more step toward trying to help families recover their loved ones and bring closure to missing persons cases," said Cpl. Curtis Peters of the RCMP.

Schiavetta said city police receive approximately 3,800 missing persons calls a year and that in 99 per cent of those cases the person returns within seven days. 

There are currently 20 outstanding missing persons cases in Calgary, he said. 

No bodies have been found during the annual search.