The mother of one of four hunters who went missing Sunday in Fort Chipewyan, Alta., says the men are experienced in the bush, but still fears they didn't survive.
Through tears, Alice Rigney told CBC that her son, Keith Marten, loved the bush.
"It was what they did every spring," she said of the men. "They couldn't wait to get out there. You just didn't expect this to happen to them."
The men headed out on Sunday for a quick hunting trip on the Rocher River, north of Fort Chipewyan. They didn't return home that night, so RCMP were alerted and started a search Monday. Their boat was found early on in the search.
On Wednesday afternoon, Parks Canada and Fort Chipewyan RCMP said the search had become a search and recovery operation. A candelight vigil was held in the community Wednesday for the men, who have been identified as Marten, Walter Ladouceur, Andrew Ladouceur and Keanan Cardinal.
Rigney went up in a helicopter on Wednesday and saw the damage to the boat.
"They hit something so hard that their boat probably flipped over on the side and they were probably all ejected from the boat because their guns and everything were still in the boat.
"I can imagine the panic that must've happened when it happened," she sobbed.
"I don't think it's survival. I think it's recovery now."
'I want to hold my son'
Rigney said the men were "the best" at what they did out on the land, and hunted together often.
"They were like brothers," she said.
"I don't believe they're alive because if they were, they would have made a fire, they would have walked. You know they're survivors. They go out on the land all the time. It's what they do."
She said the water is "not something you fool around with" at this time of year, and suspects that they would have succumbed to hypothermia, whether or not they were wearing life-jackets.
"I just want my son to come home," Rigney cried.
She last heard from Marten on Saturday, after they texted each other good night — a nightly ritual with all her kids.
"I don't understand why all this is happening," she said.
"As long as he comes home, I'll be OK. As long as he's out there I'll never give up hope. I want to see him. I want to hold my son, that's what I want to do."