Search and rescue suspended after Day 3

  • May. 5, 2015 6:00 a.m.

By Quinn BenderHaida Gwaii ObserverThe search for Kumdis Ilsand resident, Brent Hendren, was suspended last weekend following one of Haida Gwaii’s largest search and rescue operations in more than 25 years. “I know for a fact that if he was alive out there we would have found him. There’s no chance we would have missed him. The community should know we did everything we possibly could to find him,” said Chris Ashurst, SAR manager with Archipelago Ground Search and Rescue and deputy unit leader with Massett Marine Rescue.Mr. Hendren, 27, was last seen rowing out to his Kumdis Island cabin rental with supplies Sunday morning, April 18. He missed dinner plans with friends later that night. The following Tuesday Masset RCMP received a missing persons report, which led to the discovery Mr. Hendren’s boat abandoned and overturned south of Watun River near Pure Lake Provincial Park. “It is strongly believed that Brent drowned when his rowboat capsized west of Kumdis Island,” Mr. Ashurst said. “This is based on information from witnesses, the location of the capsized vessel, and the distribution of his personal effects along the shoreline.”There’s no evidence he made it to shore. We had people all over those beaches and they found no footprints.”The Canadian Forces’ Joint Rescue Coordination Centre (RCC) out of CFB Comox mobilized search efforts for Mr. Hendren, calling on the Coast Guard, DFO, RCMP and local search and rescue teams, employing three aircraft and various watercraft to search every kilometre of water and shoreline in between Masset and North Beach.As the search wound down for ground crews Tuesday evening, the arial search intensified, using infrared sensors with the hope of picking out Mr. Hendren’s body heat from the forest, and dispersing marine flares to draw him out of any shelter he may have been utilizing.The next afternoon ground teams found a backpack belonging to Mr. Hendren on the shore near Sewall. That evening the RCC pulled out its water and air support, having exhausted their search grid, and handed over operations to the RCMP. Ground crews continued their efforts into the night and the following day, but by 7 p.m. Thursday, the call was given to suspend the active search and rescue. “Continuing the search would most likely be futile,” RCMP Cst Patti Evans said. “We can’t say for certain what the status is [of Mr. Hendren’s condition] at this point, but the active search has been called off.”Cst. Evans added in the course of the operation the RCMP was greatly aided with the assistance of the Lavoy family, who volunteered extensive ground searches of the Kumdis Island coastline as well as Collison Point and the banks of the Ain river.”They basically covered any part of coastline that is walkable. Without being asked to do so, they really stepped up.”Mr. Hendren was an avid outdoorsman, known by friends to sometimes push himself beyond his abilities. He moved to Haida Gwaii from Ontario last November to learn how to forage for food and live off the land while living in the cabin on Kumdis Island. Mr. Ashurst said the scope of the search, with the technology and resources available, out-matched all previous operations on the islands, including that for the downed air ambulance in Masset 25 years ago.

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