Search scaled back for man missing in Mackenzie River

Search efforts are being scaled back for Richard St. Germain, 21, who went missing in the Mackenzie River near Norman Wells, N.W.T., a week ago.

Richard St. Germain, 21, moved to Norman Wells in June to work for airline

Richard St. Germain, 21, in the cockpit of a plane in a photo taken on June 20. St. Germain had moved to Norman Wells to work for an airline three weeks before his canoe tipped in the Mackenzie River. (submitted by Laval St. Germain)

Search efforts are being scaled back for Richard St. Germain, 21, who went missing in the Mackenzie River near Norman Wells, N.W.T., a week ago.

St. Germain, 21, was last seen after his canoe tipped on the river the evening of July 15. He had moved to Norman Wells just three weeks prior to work for North-Wright Airways. 

That Tuesday night, it was sunny and warm when he went out on the river with a young woman he was seeing, after her shift at a local restaurant. A wind came up and a wave swamped the canoe.

The woman was pulled out of the water within minutes by a local man, who saw them calling for help, says Richard's father Laval St. Germain.

Volunteers scour the Mackenzie River near Norman Wells, N.W.T., last week. (Daniel Campbell)

"[He] went for the canoe initially, saw that he could not see Richard and then picked up the young lady and circled the canoe three times and couldn't find him," says St. Germain.

"[He] stayed out until 2:30 in the morning along with most of the community of Norman Wells who, within minutes, showed up looking for our boy."

Searchers say they've dragged the area he was last seen more than a thousand times. More than a hundred people from all over the region took part in the search and searchers have been working up to 18 hours a day, looking for any sign of St. Germain.

They're now dialling down their efforts but people will continue to check the shoreline along the river and a helicopter will pass over the area once a week.

"There's a lot of traffic between here and Fort Good Hope all summer long on the river, so as long as the individual is missing, we will continue to look," said searcher Sarah Baker.

Laval St. Germain, a pilot himself who has spent much of his life flying in the North, says searchers let him know they're winding down their efforts. He says he's OK with that.

"Some of my best days of my life have been in the Arctic," he said. "I've flown over the Mackenzie many times. It's Canada's largest river. It's untamed still. And he's slowly being carried north. I think there's something that's beautiful about that."

The St. Germain family has established a trust fund in Richard's name to provide rescue equipment to Norman Wells.