Missing Lac La Biche boater presumed dead
RCMP are now calling the search a recovery mission
RCMP in Lac La Biche say the 69-year-old man who went missing after falling into the water at Lac La Biche Friday night is now presumed dead.
RCMP had been working with Fish and Wildlife, Alberta Parks Officers and Little Divide Search and Rescue teams to locate Donald Stratton, who was reported missing after falling from a boat around 7:30 p.m. Friday.
However, the search teams ceased their efforts at 3 p.m. MT Saturday when it became clear Stratton would likely not be found alive.
"We were not able to locate [Stratton]," said Constable Chris Clark with the RCMP in Lac La Biche. "[We] conducted a water and a ground search as well as an air search utilizing the RCMP helicopter… due to the fact that we were unable to locate the male and the time that’s lapsed, we’ve now gone into a recovery mission."
Stratton had been boating with another man, removing commercial fishing nets from the water when a wave struck the boat, knocking the 69-year-old into the lake.
Stratton's companion, 62, also ended up in the lake after the boat began to take on water.
Neither man was wearing a life jacket, and Clark said Stratton swam very poorly.
The 62-year-old was able to swim to shore where he called 911, however responding rescue crews were not able to locate either the boat or Stratton Friday evening.
Rescue teams then returned to the lake Saturday morning to continue their efforts, locating the men’s boat and netting.
Clark said crews would return to the lake on Sunday to do an underwater search using sonar to locate the Stratton's body.
This is the second boating accident on Lac La Biche in the last couple of weeks – a 53-year-old man fell out of his fishing boat on Aug. 22. In that case, the man was wearing a life jacket and was quickly rescued by a nearby boater.
Lac La Biche is about 225 kilometres northeast of Edmonton.