Safety concerns on Wednesday led search and rescue workers in northern B.C. to temporarily suspend the river search for a missing Red Deer man.
Dave Jephson, with Terrace Search and Rescue, said on Wednesday that they have located the Ford F150 truck that Dustin Steele, 23, was in. The truck is in the fast and cold Skeena River, but they have found no sign of the missing man.
Steele was last seen on Saturday night when he was with two other men in the area of Copper Flats, on the Skeena River, near where it converges with the Copper River, about 10 km east of Terrace.
“My understanding is they were down there just playing around on the rocks on the edge of the water. It’s a big sand flats and lots of people go down there with either four-by-fours or quads. It’s a common recreational area. Unfortunately, this isn’t the first victim, this isn’t the first vehicle … that’s gone in there,” said Jephson.
“They got stuck in there and the water was too strong and it pulled them in.
“Saturday night it rained really hard. The Skeena River’s a huge river. Unfortunately for us and the families, most people that go into the river never come back,” said Jephson, 47.
Jephson has 25 years of experience with search and rescue and is also deputy chief of the Terrace fire department.
The weather conditions have been difficult since search and rescue crews were first called out on Sunday. There’s been a lot of rain and wind, leading to the search on Monday also being suspended.
But they were back out on the water on Tuesday searching with sonar and were able to locate the truck. They then tried to search the vehicle with a camera but with the speed of the current, they were unsuccessful.
On Wednesday, Jephson was involved with an operation to hook the truck and drag it to shore.
“We had the vehicle hooked. We started pulling it to shore. The whole front end is totally under gravel, just in that many days, so you can see the nature of the water that we are dealing with.”
The chain broke off the truck.
“It’s like a torrential wind out here. We’re unable to hold the boat steady so we’re unable to get a second hook on (the truck).”
“The truck is one component of this. … We were hoping (Steele) was still kind of part of that truck or around the truck . We didn’t spot any of that today.
“Most important of all is trying to successfully locate Dustin but that’s obviously becoming more difficult as we go,” said Jephson.
“Searching for people in the Skeena River in vehicles and whatever is unfortunately too common for us. So we’ve kind of got good at it. But unfortunately we still can never provide closure to many families.”
Jephson said 98 per cent of the people who get lost in the Skeena River are never found.
RCMP were in the air with a helicopter on Tuesday and searched downstream about 20 km, said Jephson.
They did locate some items from the truck, including a shoe, about 15 km downstream. The truck was found about one km downstream from where it entered the river.
“This year I don’t know what’s going on. It’s just stupid. This is by far the busiest year for a small search and rescue organization. We are looking at probably over 40 calls this year. We normally average about 20. A lot of those have been too many deceased people. Lots in the river.”
Some of Steele’s family members have arrived in Terrace, Jephson said.