Volunteers renew search for missing Sagkeeng snowmobilers

A volunteer dive crew is in Manitoba's Sagkeeng First Nation to find two people who disappeared last November while attempting to ride their snowmobile across the river.

HEART dive team has detected what they believe is the snowmobile they were riding

In November, searchers from Sagkeeng First Nation dragged the open parts of the Winnipeg River in search of the man and woman who disappeared while snowmobiling. A volunteer dive team joined the search after the ice froze over. (Jaison Empson/CBC)

A volunteer dive crew is in Sagkeeng First Nation to find two people who disappeared in November while attempting to ride their snowmobile across the river.

Using an underwater video camera, the Hutterian Emergency Aquatic Response Team (HEART) has found what they believe is the snowmobile the young man and woman were riding on, Sagkeeng Chief Derrick Henderson said.

But by Tuesday morning, they had yet to find the two snowmobilers, he said.

"We're hoping in the next couple of days that we can get to the bottom of this. It'll be closure for the families once we do the recovery." 

The two snowmobilers were believed to have travelled from the south to north shore of the Winnipeg River behind Sagkeeng Arena in the late evening of Nov. 20 when they went through the ice.

RCMP, as well as fire and safety officials and other volunteers, were called around 11:45 p.m. and scoured the area for several hours, but the search was called off due to the dangerous condition of the ice and the rapidly moving open water.

Members of the HEART dive team and another volunteer look at the images produced by a remotely operated vehicle (ROV) as they search for evidence of the two snowmobilers who disappeared in November outside Sagkeeng First Nation. (Submitted by Chief Derrick Henderson)

Henderson said the ice is now thick enough for the search to begin anew.

He said the HEART team volunteered to help, and have been in the community, about 100 kilometres northeast of Winnipeg, since Sunday. They are combing the location where snowmobile tracks were observed that evening. 

In the days since, Sagkeeng residents have been delivering hot soup, sandwiches and bannock to the searchers, which are expected to remain in town until Wednesday when they head to Alaska.

"It's tough in your community when you know those people in the river," he said. 

RCMP said Tuesday the searchers are using a underwater mobile device, controlled above ground, to act as their set of eyes under the frozen river. 

About the Author

Ian Froese

Reporter

Ian Froese is a reporter at CBC Manitoba. He previously wrote about rural Manitoba for the Brandon Sun and the Carillon in Steinbach. Story idea? Email ian.froese@cbc.ca.