Update: The names of those involved in the accident have been released.
A blissful canoe ride along the calm waters of Slocan Lake somehow turned deadly, with one young person confirmed dead and three others missing – prompting an outpouring of grief in the tiny southeastern British Columbia community of New Denver.
The canoe became submerged at about 5:30 p.m. Saturday, when police received a call from a man who had been walking along the beach. The man had spotted two people clinging to the boat.
First responders located an unconscious female inside the vessel; she later died in hospital.
The search for three males continued through Sunday and will continue Monday, with residents fearing the worst.
“It’s such a tight-knit community,” said Andrew Neilson, principal of New Denver’s kindergarten to Grade 12 school. “… It’s hit our youth so close.”
Three of the people on board the canoe lived in New Denver, about 300 kilometres east of Kelowna.
The fourth was from the Sunshine Coast community of Gibsons.
New Denver has a population of just over 500. The school counts about 100 students.
The four people in the canoe ranged in age from 15 to 21.
The final moments leading up to the accident remained a mystery Sunday.
Sergeant Darryl Little, an RCMP spokesman, said the group had set out for a six-kilometre ride from New Denver to Rosebery.
He said the canoe was approximately 150 metres from shore and conditions were good and the water calm.
He said none of the people on board were wearing life jackets.
The search began Saturday night and resumed early Sunday, with dive teams and a helicopter canvassing the area.
Neither the RCMP nor the B.C. Coroners Service would formally release the name of the deceased Sunday.
But Dan Nicholson, a family friend, identified the deceased as 19-year-old Lily Harmer-Taylor. “She grew up in the community – I’ve known her for many, many years – she was just a marvellous woman,” Mr. Nicholson told the Canadian Press.
The missing males were identified by police as: Hayden Kyle, 21; Skye Donnet, 18; and Jule Wiltshire-Padfield, 15.
Sgt. Little expressed hope the three males would be found alive, that they somehow made it to shore.
He stressed police were undertaking a search operation, not a recovery mission.
He conceded, however, that the water would have been extremely cold and about 75 metres deep in the area in which the canoe became submerged.
He said the incident has had a “dramatic impact” on New Denver.
“The community has already opened up its doors to the families. The school principal, I know, is arranging some counselling for the kids because being a small town like that everybody knows each other,” he said in an interview.
A meeting was held at the school Sunday afternoon for residents.
Mr. Neilson said students will get the support they need.
He said a counsellor from a neighbouring school district is being brought in to assist the regular counsellor.
Though the RCMP spokesman did his best to express optimism, Mr. Neilson said the mood around town was starkly different.
“My sense is people are fearing the worst,” he said.
Henning von Krogh, a New Denver councillor who has lived in the community for more than three decades, echoed that sentiment.
He said people around town were very upset.
Mr. von Krogh said he could not remember an incident of similar magnitude in the time he’d lived in New Denver.
Ann Bunka, the town’s mayor, declined to comment.