SOUTHEND, Sask. — Searchers believe they have spotted five missing teens on an island in a northern Saskatchewan lake, but it will take hours to reach them and confirm their identities.
RCMP spokeswoman Mandy Maier said a boat was on its way to Malcolm Island on Reindeer Lake, where the crew of a search plane reported seeing five people.
“Due to limited cell coverage we won’t know for several hours the identity of the people on the shoreline, but we believe it’s the missing youth,” she said.
She said strong winds, large waves and dropping temperatures have been hampering search efforts.
“The weather has not been good in the area,” said Maier, adding temperatures were ranging from -10 to -18 C.
“Ultimately our concern is the water is going to freeze possibly. It’s going to be snowing and cold.”
Police said the teens, who left the community of Southend on Tuesday in two aluminum boats, were equipped for overnight camping and may have taken shelter on shore from the cold and wind.
They were going moose hunting, police said, and planned to be gone for a couple of days. When they didn’t arrive back, police were notified late Thursday night.
The group includes four boys and one girl ranging in age from 13 to 17. Maier said she didn’t know if the teens are related.
There have been other hopeful signs during the search.
Maier said search-and-rescue officials saw two boats docked at a private lodge on Saturday, but no one was unable to get to the area until Sunday due to poor weather.
“The cabin was vacant at that point,” she said.
The lodge had been broken into and some supplies were taken, but police weren’t able to confirm that the group was there, she said.
Reindeer Lake is Saskatchewan’s second-largest lake at more than 6,650 square kilometres and with numerous islands and bays. The community of Southend is the terminus of Highway 102, which is the only road access to the lake.
“The community as a whole has really come together and provided assistance for our members and (search and rescue) as well,” Maier said.
Frank Schuurmans, president of Civil Air Search and Rescue, said conditions had improved somewhat since the weekend.
“We’ve had a lot of searches this year in the north La Ronge area and Meadow Lake area, more than usual it seems this year, for whatever reason.”
Schuurmans added that searches have been for missing canoeists, berry-pickers and hunting parties.
“It covers the whole gambit.”