Search for missing fisherman turns into recovery mission: RCMP

(Duane Alvin Aleck has been missing since June 18, 2018 after he fell in to the Fraser River in the B.C. interior. Submitted photo)

RCMP say there’s little hope of finding B.C. fisherman Duane Aleck alive after he likely fell into the churning Fraser River last week.

“It’s a mighty river – like lots of rivers in Canada – that they don’t easily give up their conquests,” said Cpl. Madonna Saunderson of the B.C. RCMP.

Saunderson said area Mounties did what they could to find Aleck, an avid fisherman from Lytton First Nation in the B.C. interior, after he was reported missing on June 18.

She said police in a helicopter flew over the waterway twice in two days after witnesses reported various sightings. And, she said, they scoured the banks and alerted other detachments along the river’s path to keep an eye out.

“Sadly, at this point, they’ve done what they can, and they’re now in a position where it would be a recovery versus a rescue,” Saunderson said in a telephone interview Thursday.

But Aleck’s family members wish police had done more.

“I’m so disappointed in them,” said niece Erin Aleck of what she called a lack of support from the RCMP.

Erin says her family is devastated by the loss of 59-year-old Aleck, who was working on a fishing net when he disappeared.

This is where Duane Aleck was last seen fishing on the Fraser River. (submitted photo)

Some of his belongings were recovered by his favourite fishing spot below Kumsheen Secondary School in Lytton, B.C. A fishing net found downstream and some food on the bank is also believed to be his.

“I’m always going to have hope that he’s sitting on the beach waiting for me to find him,” she said.

The family wanted police to put boats on the river, sniffer dogs along the shore and a drone in the air, it said in a press release sent to APTN News that criticized the police response.

But no search and rescue technicians or federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) personnel were deployed, Erin added.

Saunderson was aware of the negative feedback.

She said RCMP did contact DFO who recommended the flyover. She said a police dog isn’t used for suspected drownings. And a drone was overruled in favour of the helicopter.

“A recovery mission would be when we put a boat in the water,” she added.

Family members and volunteers have continued to search for Duane, whom they said was wearing an orange flotation device around his waist when he went in the water.

They also brought in a private drone operator.

“All I want is help,” she said. “Who do I go to?”

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