RCMP say search for missing teen is now a recovery operation

Staff ~ The Cape Breton Post
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INGONISH — A Glace Bay boy is presumed drowned after a boating accident in Ingonish harbour.

RCMP received a call of an overturned boat in Ingonish harbour Saturday at approximately 2:30 a.m.

Five people ages 14-18 were in a small wooden boat when it took on water and overturned.  All five went into the water about 300 metres from land.  Four of the teens made it to shore.  

The fifth youth was last seen by his friends in the water. Const. Brad Anderson of the RCMP confirmed the youth's identity on Sunday night as 14-year-old Gregory Hibbs of Glace Bay. The search was concluded Sunday at 6 p.m. and will resume again today at 10 a.m. with a side-scan sonar.

"With the time that's gone by we're looking at a recovery operation and search," RCMP spokesman Cpl. Scott MacRae said Sunday evening. "We brought in our RCMP underwater recovery team, or divers as people know them. They are continuing to search throughout the day."

Lyle Donovan, emergency management co-ordinator for Victoria County, said he arrived on scene about 25 minutes after an emergency call was placed.

Donovan said a regional Coast Guard Auxiliary member was dispatched, along with local RCMP,  firefighters and paramedics. As of late Sunday evening, neither the teen nor the wooden boat could be found.

"By the time I got there, local citizens had already jumped the gun and there were approximately nine on the water when I got on site," said Donovan.

Donovan said the number of boats on the water grew to over 25, to scout the water looking for the teen, including boats from the nearby Ingonish port.

"They all had bright floodlights and they were looking for any trace of any individuals that may have been in the water," said Donovan. "They picked up some clothes and some of them were old clothes that had been in the water for a while."

Donovan said fishermen dropped the clothes off to RCMP with details of where the items were found. He said the search area is approximately one kilometre in width and about three kilometres in depth.

"The individuals that came out of the area, they were really unsure of where they were going and where they were at. And they weren't even sure where they came ashore," Donovan said.

A Cormorant helicopter from the Joint Rescue Co-ordination Centre arrived at about 5:30 a.m. to provide an aerial search for the teen, while an RCMP helicopter arrived a few hours later having been dispatched from Fredericton.

A ground search team from Cheticamp also scoured the coastline for any signs of the missing teen.

George MacDonald, Cape Breton Regional Municipality councillor for Glace Bay, said the teen was a student at the Southside Learning Centre in Sydney and a former student at Oceanview Education Centre in Glace Bay.

While he didn't know the teen personally, MacDonald said there were many community members upset over the teen's presumed drowning.

Bruce Morrision, warden for Victoria County,  sent early condolences to the teen's family as hope faded that he would be found alive.

"It's an unfortunate accident and we certainly feel for the family of the young gentleman," said Morrison. "Our thoughts are with his parents and his family."

RCMP are expected to return to the waters of Ingonish harbour today with sonar technology to aid in the search.

Investigators are also examining whether or not alcohol was a factor in the incident, and believe the youth were not wearing life jackets at the time.

The matter remains under investigation.


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