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Canada RCMP divers to begin searching river near Gillam after finding rowboat, search for B.C. fugitives continues

After a long drive from Winnipeg, Manitoba on Saturday an RCMP officer cleans off the windshield of the dive team truck in Gillam, Manitoba on Sunday morning. The team will assess the ability to dive near the lower rapids of the Nelson River to search for triple murder suspects Bryer Schmegelsky and Kam McLeod.

Melissa Tait/The Globe and Mail

An RCMP dive team will head to the Nelson River on Sunday to search a section of the Northern Manitoba waterway after a wrecked rowboat was found along the shore Friday afternoon.

Inspector Leon Fiedler said it's not known whether the boat was used by two men wanted in the killings of three people in Northern B.C.

The green-coloured rowboat was spotted washed up on the shore during a helicopter search of the river Friday. The flat-bottom aluminum boat was pulled out of the area in the evening.

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“It had gone through some rapids and had been significantly damaged,” Inspector Fiedler said Saturday. “We’re going to search in the area around where we found this boat just to make sure that there is nobody attached to it, whether that is our subjects or anyone else for that matter.”

RCMP officers ask people to turn back driving north on Provincial Road 290 along the Nelson River in Fox Lake Cree Nation on Saturday. A boat was pulled from the river nearby on Friday evening and RCMP divers arrived in Gillam, Manitoba Saturday night to assist in the search.

Melissa Tait/The Globe and Mail

Dozens of RCMP officers have been scouring the rugged Northern Manitoba wilderness for Bryer Schmegelsky and Kam McLeod since July 22, when the grey Toyota Rav 4 that police believe the pair was driving was found burning in a ditch near Fox Lake Cree Nation.

Their intensive, nearly two-week search for the pair has involved sniffer dogs, drones, helicopters, ATVs and two military aircraft. But the manhunt has turned up little in the way of new clues.

The young men from Port Alberni, B.C., are suspects in the deaths of American Chynna Deese, 24, and her 23-year-old Australian boyfriend Lucas Fowler, who were shot to death on the side of a Northern British Columbia highway and found on July 15. Four days later, the body of Vancouver resident Leonard Dyck, 64, a sessional lecturer at the University of British Columbia’s botany department, was discovered on a road near Dease Lake, about 500 kilometres southwest of the hot springs.

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RCMP have charged Mr. Schmegelsky, 18, and Mr. McLeod, 19, with second-degree murder in Mr. Dyck’s death. They are also suspects in the deaths of Ms. Deese and Mr. Fowler, police said.

Tactical officers spent the day on Saturday combing through the shoreline and dense, insect-laden bush near where the boat was found. Vehicles headed north on provincial road 290 were turned back. Their search Saturday did not turn up anything of significance, Inspector Fiedler said.

Manitoba RCMP’s underwater recovery team arrived in the Gillam area from Winnipeg just before 10 p.m. Saturday. They will head to the Nelson River on Sunday.

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“My expectation is that they’ll probably want to go on the river first to assess even the viability of diving, because the currents on that river are pretty treacherous,” Inspector Fiedler said.

The rowboat was found about 70 kilometres north of Gillam, by road, and about 13 kilometres from where police believe the fugitives torched the grey Toyota. The boat had washed up in an area known as the lower Limestone rapids, near the Keewatinoow converter station.

The dive team truck stationed in Gillam, Manitoba on Sunday morning. The team will assess the ability to dive near the lower rapids of the Nelson River to search for triple murder suspects Bryer Schmegelsky and Kam McLeod.

Melissa Tait/The Globe and Mail

Officers did not find anything near the boat Friday night except for a red-and-white water container. The police had last scoured the area by air three or four days earlier.

Inspector Fiedler said police had not yet located the rowboat’s owner and there was no forensic evidence to gather from the boat, which was found wrecked below the rapids. Inspector Fiedler said the extent of the damage prompted him to request the RCMP’s dive team.

“Whether it’s the subjects for or whether it’s another member of the public, we have an obligation to do a search-and-rescue effort there to make sure that there’s nobody out there as a result of some kind of boating accident,” he said late Saturday.

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