Search and rescue officials concerned over volunteers' safety
VICTORIA -- Ongoing efforts to find missing Cowichan man Ethan Sampson have search and rescue crews concerned about community safety.
The 28-year-old was last seen on Jan. 30. Family say someone saw him fall into the rushing Cowichan River and get swept away. Search and Rescue crews say extremely high water levels currently make it too dangerous to search and are urging community volunteers to exercise extra caution.
"Untrained people out there searching is concerning," says Vickie Weber, search manager for Juan De Fuca Search and Rescue. "We completely understand the urgency people feel; in general we try and discourage the public, unless it is absolutely safe."
Cowichan Search and Rescue says conditions are the opposite. RCMP have stopped the official search until water levels drop, but volunteers say they are not calling off theirs.
"Some of the images I've seen of volunteers out there have been disturbing," says Comox Valley Search and Rescue manager, Paul Berry.
"People are very close to high water without PFDs. That water is relentless and powerful, and if you fall in, the chances are, you will not get out."
The River Forecast Centre says water levels in rivers over the weekend were close to breaking records. The Cowichan River and Koksilah River saw some of the highest flows in the last 50 to 70 years.
With volunteers vowing to not give up their search, experts are asking them to use extreme caution, stay away from the edge of the water and to put their search on hold until water levels drop.