Did Drag the Red searchers find a skull? Police divers have yet to check
Searcher wonders if it's his missing sister, says police aren't taking it seriously
Volunteers with Drag the Red believe there is a human skull in the Red River and are wondering why Winnipeg police have not gone underwater to find it.
- Drag the Red sets out on new boat to search fast-moving waters
- Winnipeg Police will not help Drag the Red search river, will monitor safety
Kyle Kematch, who searches the Red River for clues and remains of Manitoba's missing and murdered, made the discovery with a GoPro video camera on Aug. 30.
"It was the twelfth try, we put the GoPro down," he said. "It was kind of disbelief that I was able to get that image."
Using a flashlight and two-litre bottle filled with rocks to weigh the camera down, he dipped it under the water beneath the Disraeli Bridge.
It wasn't until he got home and loaded up the videos that he saw the haunting image.
"The perfect shape of the head; it looks like two eye sockets there," Kematch said. "A skull."
As the camera moves through the dark, cloudy water the white object appears almost as quickly as it vanishes.
"Finally someone is going to get their answers. Someone gets to go home," he said. "I immediately thought maybe it has something to do with my sister, but maybe it has something to do with somebody else from the list of the missing," he said.
Kematch's sister Amber Guiboche disappeared from Winnipeg in 2010 at the age of 20.
He reported the possible skull to police on Aug. 30 and said officers were sent over that day to view the footage.
But three weeks have gone by and Kematch says he's heard nothing from police and believes there's been no attempt to retrieve it.
"Underneath that bridge right there, that person is still there, and as far as I know [the video] is with the dive team," he said.
Const. Rob Carver of the Winnipeg Police Service said Thursday officers have been working on a plan to put divers in the water next week. Officers on the dive team are volunteers who work full-time in other units.
"Going down into the Red River is a really difficult operation. Officers who do that train for years to get to that level," Carver said. "And while there is an image, typically our officers, depending on conditions in the Red River, have zero visibility. So when we go down there we may not be able to see anything.
"We'd like to be successful which means we need the conditions to be appropriate."
'I saw a skull': Retired police diver
CBC News showed the video to retired police diver Ken Lugg who has conducted hundreds of dives in the Red and Assiniboine rivers over his 22-year career.
"My first reaction was what a great piece of video to be able to see something on the bottom of a river," Lugg said, adding police divers are typically limited to conducting river searches by feel.
Lugg viewed the video multiple times and said given his experience it could be anything.
"Initially I saw a skull, which I think many people would see," he said. "Could it be a human skull? Yes. It could be an animal skull, it does have the appearance of being elongated and we can't rule out it being a piece of wood either. It's amazing — the shapes of different pieces of submerged wood — the looks that they can take on."
Lugg said the only way to know for sure is to recover it.
Unless there is reason to believe the object is tied to a specific case, there may be delays in deploying the dive-team for fiscal reasons, he added.
Lugg said he commends Drag the Red for their efforts and countless hours spent working to bring closure to families.
"I'm a big fan of that. I started a volunteer dive team after I retired for that same purpose. I believe in closure," he said. "In this case they have some evidence that needs to be investigated and verified."
Mother wonders if it's her missing son
Dorothy Starr said she is angry to learn a dive was not conducted as soon as the tip came in.
Her son, Chris Guimond, has been missing for close to a year and a half. She can't help but wonder if the remains are real and belong to him.
"Why does it take them so long to do anything? That's what I want to know," Starr said. "I really want to find my son. He does not deserve to be out there somewhere."
Starr said she is losing her faith in police.
Kematch said he's concerned police are not taking him seriously. He has pulled up all kinds of items including hair, clothing and more recently a mat that he holds up and points to what he thinks is blood splatter.
But Kematch says he will continue searching until his sister and others are found.
"If I were to get a decent lead that actually brings her home that would be very rewarding," he said. "It just goes to show that families don't give up."