Massive search still on for man caught in river undertow

A massive search continues for an Edmonton man caught in an undertow while trying to cool off in the North Saskatchewan River downstream from the Big Horn Dam, west of Nordegg.

A massive search continues for an Edmonton man caught in an undertow while trying to cool off in the North Saskatchewan River downstream from the Big Horn Dam, west of Nordegg.

Staff Sgt. Bill Laidlaw of the Rocky Mountain House RCMP Detachment said two men, both in their early 20s, had been camped in the area and waded into the water to cool off at about 12:45 p.m. on Tuesday. One of the men was caught in an undertow. His companion — a lifelong friend ­— tried to save him, but the man was swept away.

Cpl. Mark Burnell, also of the Rocky RCMP, said it would be very difficult for anyone to survive in that part of the river, where the water temperature was measured at -10C. The super-chilled water coming from the dam would be frozen solid if it were not moving.

A helicopter crew rescued the second man, who had made his way to a rockbar. He was suffering from hypothermia and was treated at the scene. He and members of the missing man’s family remained at the site on Thursday while crews with wide-ranging expertise continued their search.

Other people camped in the immediate area were asked to move off, leaving the scene clear for searchers, support crew and people who had been camping with the missing man.

Side-scan sonar, jet boats, divers and a helicopter are among the tools searchers have used in their efforts to locate the man. Searchers have been concentrating in the water and along the banks of the river.

Included in the search are people from Alberta Parks, Fish and Wildlife, Clearwater County, Nordegg and Rocky Mountain House fire departments, Rocky Search and Rescue, Emergency Medical Services and RCMP.

The search and rescue people involved in the search include hunting guides and trappers who all know every bend in the river, said Burnell.

The active search had wound down somewhat on Thursday, but a deadline had not been set on how much longer the active search will continue, he said.

Names of the missing man and his friend have not been released.