Red Earth Cree Nation officials in northeastern Saskatchewan say they will not give up hope of finding five-year-old Frank Young alive.
The search is on day eight and spring break up on the Carrot River is now adding to the challenges searchers face.
Chief Fabian Head emphasized Tuesday during an update from the community that the search for the missing boy is still considered a rescue—not a recovery.
“We won’t give up hope,” Head said at the news conference. “We’ve had 200 volunteers, 13 search crews over the course of the search. The search is obviously still ongoing,” Head said.
“The annual spring runoff also started, the ice on the river started to flow, and the water levels continue to rise. That poses safety concerns for our divers and the searchers on canoes and boats. So, we had to be pulled aside to attend to that matter yesterday (Monday).”
New challenges for search teams
Head said the water has risen about three meters due to spring runoff. Some officials said the spring break-up came about a week earlier than expected.
Searchers on the water have reported ice jams are making it difficult in their effort to find the boy. He noted that Red Earth Cree Nation has had to evacuate due to flooding five times in the last 15 years.
On the ground, Red Earth’s housing crew searched crawl spaces on Sunday and residents in and around the reserve have been asked to search their properties and outbuildings.
In spite of aircraft equipped with high-definition cameras during the day, and infrared cameras at night, there’s been no sign of the five-year-old.
No clothing or other items connected to Frank have been found. Family last saw Frank about noon on April 19 outside his aunt and uncle’s home where he was living.
Family members began looking for him about 30 minutes later.
“They are in distress,” said Marcel Head. “They haven’t had rest and sleep since April 19. They’re emotionally, physically, mentally fatigued.”
Sgt. Richard Tonge of the Carrot River RCMP detachment said he doesn’t know if Frank is alive, but search teams have not given up hope.
“Previous searches show us humans can be incredibly resilient, and that is why our efforts continue, and we’re doing everything we possibly can to find Frank,” Tonge said.
“We will do everything we can to find him alive.”
Frank is said to have been spotted about 2:30 p.m. the same day by another community member who has come forward, Mounties said.
“In our discussions with the family, Frank does not have a history of wandering off,” said Tonge.
“Frank does go to friends’ houses in the community, near his own house.”
RCMP do not believe the boy has been abducted and there haven’t been any sightings of him at community checkpoints set up around the First Nation.
Head said about 200 houses in the Red Earth community have been searched by crews, who also checked inside canoes, sheds and crawl spaces in and around homes.
Indigenous Services Canada is providing additional mental-health support for the family and community, he said.
Frank’s parents, who live in neighbouring Shoal Lake Cree Nation, are also distressed over their missing son.
Shoal Lake Chief Marcel Head said the parents continue to receive counselling and help from elders.
“There’s more questions than there are answers. Along with that, their frustrations and anxiety, it builds up,” he said.
With files from the Canadian Press