An autopsy is pending after a 21-year-old Langley man was found dead in a canyon near Chehalis Lake Monday evening.
A three-day-long search of the Chehalis area began at about 10:45 p.m. on Canada Day (Friday, July 1), after Agassiz RCMP and Kent Harrison Search and Rescue learned a camper had gone missing.
A group of family and friends were reportedly camping about 30 kilometres in along the Chehalis Forestry Service Road. Two men in the party left in a car late Friday afternoon, to gather firewood.
Their car broke down about 12 kilometres away from the campsite, and one of the men went back to get another vehicle. When he returned, the Langley man was “no where in sight,” said search manager Neil Brewer.
Kent Harrison Search and Rescue initially searched nearby campsites and the forestry road overnight, to no avail.
Over the course of the next three days search efforts continued. Twenty six members from Kent, Harrison, Chilliwack, Mission, and Central Fraser Valley search and rescue teams worked with Mounties to comb the area by land, water, and air.
The missing man’s cooler bag – containing beer and his cellphone – was located Sunday, floating in the river of Chehalis Canyon. This information helped rescuers to focus their search efforts on that area.
But Brewer noted searching this area was difficult, the 150-foot-high canyon walls making the hunt “very dangerous” on foot, and Sunday’s search was subsequently suspended.
Efforts resumed for a short time Monday morning, but this time by helicopter, with a small team flying back and forth using video equipment to survey the 1.5-km stretch of river. They still found nothing.
Brewer described the area as “treacherous,” but the most likely location of the missing man.
But his family and friends continued their search by land and notified authorities they spotted the missing man’s body in the river at about 3 p.m. Monday.
The search team brought back a helicopter to help extract the body. B.C. Coroners Service is expected to complete an autopsy soon.
During the body retrieval, searchers also had to rescue two members of the camping party (a friend and girlfriend of the missing man) who had tried to scale down the canyon wall and became stuck.
“The girl was supposedly injured,” Brewer said, adding that both people refused medical attention from awaiting paramedics.
“RCMP remind visitors to the area to be aware of their limitations and the environment while enjoying activities in our region,” said Agassiz RCMP Cpl. Mike Rail.
Rescue boat stolen
While volunteers were searching for the missing camper, Kent Harrison Search and Rescue became victims of a crime.
Sometime between 9 p.m. Sunday and 7 a.m. Monday, a search boat was stolen from the team’s headquarters in Agassiz.
The 12-foot rescue boat was strapped to a trailer and secured behind a locked gate. The boat and trailer were both taken, Brewer said.
Both items were recovered later that day, but without the boat’s motor.
Anyone with any details about the theft, is asked to call Agassiz RCMP at 604-796-2211.