Lutselk'e launches community search to recover two missing travellers
‘We've still got loved ones that are still out there missing,’ says Lutsel k'e Dene First Nation chief
People from Lutselk'e, N.W.T., are combing the icy waters and shores of Great Slave Lake by boat this week, searching for two young people who went missing in May, hopefully bringing closure to their loved ones.
Jake Gully, 28, originally from Fort Good Hope, N.W.T., and Cammy Boucher, 23, of Lutselk'e are believed to have gone through the ice.
The pair had been travelling on a single snowmobile from Detah to Lutselk'e with Cammy's 64-year-old father, Samuel Boucher the night of May 13. RCMP helped recover Samuel Boucher's body and debris from a pool of open water nearly a week later, following an extensive air search.
"It's been really frustrating for us," said Lutsel K'e Dene First Nation Chief Darryl Marlowe. "We've still got loved ones that are still out there missing."
Since the trio went missing Marlowe claims there's been "little communication" between the community and the RCMP. Waiting for open water has also been difficult, he said.
"We really couldn't wait for the RCMP to keep updating us from time to time. So that's why we had to send out our own members and take this into our own hands so that we could try to recover the bodies," he said.
Latest search flight found nothing new
The RCMP began its search on May 14 by air with the Civil Air Search and Rescue Association (CASARA) because treacherous ice conditions precluded searching on ice. The 440 Squadron, Joint Rescue Coordination Centre, and Department of Fisheries and Oceans, all helped in the search and recovery efforts.
In an email to CBC the RCMP says it completed the last reconnaissance flight of the area June 19. The email states "no new facts (or evidence or observations) were made," and that the families and community leaders were updated.
This was the ninth flight for CASARA. Police are now considering continuing the search by water. RCMP warn the area is still covered with ice, "posing significant risks. We do not want community volunteers to put themselves at risk, despite their good intentions to assist."
K'asho Gotine Dene Band Chief Wilfred McNeely Jr. says Fort Good Hope will support the Lutsel K'e First Nation's efforts in any way they can. Jake Gully's family still lives in Fort Good Hope.
"We need to do something. We can't just sit here and wait," said McNeely. "If I was closer and had more spending authority I'd be over there trying to search myself ... [Fort] Good Hope will come through with the money they need to help with the gas," he said.
About seven boats from Lutselk'e are helping with the search.
Searchers are focusing their attention around Etthen Island, an area of interest identified by the RCMP.
Chief Darryl Marlowe says they plan to camp for several nights. They'll use their eyes and a drone to scan the land and water. Searchers have consulted with elders about how to do this safely.
"We know the area. This is our traditional territory," he said. "So our people are very familiar with the whole area. They're professionals at travelling the lake."
Marlowe says they are also preparing for what they might see.
The searchers are ready to dredge the deep water that's known for its strong currents.
"We wanted to help bring closure to Jake's family as well ... Our hearts go out to the community of Fort Good Hope," said Marlowe.
"I'm just hoping for the best, that ... we recover the two youth and have closure for the families — the mothers and the fathers that are still missing their loved ones, their kids."