An extensive search involving multiple agencies failed to find a local fisherman who is thought to have fallen from a vessel early last Friday evening.
The RCMP and the Joint Rescue Coordination Center (JRCC/Coast Guard) were notified of a missing person on Friday, May 15 at approximately 6:40pm and a search team was dispatched. The extensive effort included local Bella Coola Valley Search and Rescue (BCVSAR), Regional Coordinating Centre for SAR, local Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO), Coast Guard, SAR Helicopter and Fixed Wing aircraft and the community.
Although RCMP has not officially released the missing person’s identity, it is said that Vern Schooner, 35, was cleaning the back deck of a fishing vessel on a return trip to the Bella Coola wharf from the North Bentick Arm Channel.
An experienced fisherman, Schooner was last confirmed on the boat at 5:30 p.m. and not noticed missing until 6:00 p.m. by crew members who immediately conducted a search of the area covered in the last half hour.
Local fishing vessels instantly joined the search and within a few hours of the incident resources arrived from Comox, including the Cormorant Helicopter and Buffalo fixed wing aircraft, part of the 442 Transport and Rescue Squadron of 19 Wing Comox, but were also unable to find Schooner.
His sandals were located that evening floating in the inlet by a local fisherman assisting in the search.
Community efforts continued over the following days with dozens of people assisting in shoreline and marine searches. After a three day intensive search with negative results to locate the missing man, on May 18, 2015 at 12:30 p.m. in consultation with all search partners, it was agreed that the search be suspended.
The case remains as a missing person investigation with local RCMP and no foul play is suspected.