ST. JOHN’S, N.L. — The lengthy search for a downed float plane and its three missing passengers has been suspended, and officers who took part in the rescue effort have left the Labrador lake where the plane crashed last month, the RCMP said Tuesday.
On-site search efforts concluded Aug. 8 and divers have left Mistastin Lake, located about 100 kilometres southwest of Nain, N.L., said RCMP Cpl. Jolene Garland.
The federal police force had been leading the search for the plane and three men after the aircraft crashed into the lake July 15. Seven men, including the pilot, were on board the Air Saguenay-owned de Havilland DHC-2 Beaver. Four bodies have been recovered.
“It’s a sad day again today,” airline president Jean Tremblay said in a phone interview. “It’s very sad for us, for everybody involved in that accident.”
Garland said the force is considering its next steps following the failed search. “There are meetings, planning taking place to try to figure out what’s going to happen now,” she said.
The cause of the crash is unknown and the plane’s fuselage was never located. The Transportation Safety Board of Canada said Tuesday it would inspect the plane if it is ever found and removed from the water. Until then, the safety board said its investigation will be on hold.
Military divers sent to assist the RCMP concluded their work Aug. 6, a spokesman confirmed on Monday. Six members of the Forces’ diving unit from Halifax had been at Mistastin Lake since July 31, using remotely operated vehicles and side-scan sonar technology.
The plane had been travelling from Three Rivers Lodge to a fishing camp on Mistastin Lake, but did not return as planned on the evening of July 15. It’s unclear at what point in the journey the plane crashed.
Officials had said the extreme depths of the lake and its remote location, accessible only by plane, posed challenges for divers. The plane’s tail and other debris had been spotted in the water by aircraft on July 16, but the RCMP believed the debris had drifted before divers arrived.
Lodge guest John Weaver II of Chicago, fishing guide Dwayne Winsor of Deer Lake, N.L., a 67-year-old man from New Jersey and a 50-year-old fishing guide from Newfoundland and Labrador were found dead.
Pilot Gilles Morin of Quebec and Weaver’s sons, John Weaver III and Matthew Weaver, also visiting from the United States, are still missing.
Tremblay said he and his company are still praying for the missing men, even as hopes dim that they will ever be found.
“We will have questions without answers,” he said.