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Searchers find remains of Bay Roberts educator Mike O'Driscoll following extensive search

Retired Bay Roberts educator Mike O'Driscoll has not been seen since Friday, despite a frantic search of the rugged terrain and coastline around a popular hiking destination called Madrock. (RCMP N.L. - image credit)
Retired Bay Roberts educator Mike O'Driscoll has not been seen since Friday, despite a frantic search of the rugged terrain and coastline around a popular hiking destination called Madrock. (RCMP N.L. - image credit)

There's been a grim outcome in the extended search for missing Bay Roberts educator Mike O'Driscoll.

O'Driscoll's remains were found in the water Wednesday morning by search and rescue divers near a popular hiking area known as Madrock, O'Driscoll's wife of 27 years, Dale O'Driscoll, confirmed to CBC News.

The RCMP, who had been leading the search, have not yet confirmed the outcome.

Hope for a successful rescue had faded, and Dale O'Driscoll said she's relieved her husband's remains have been found and she can give him a proper sendoff.

It's been a tumultuous five days for Dale and their 17-year-old son Jack, who spoke with CBC News about their despair on Tuesday.

"I just need him around. I can't sleep, I can't eat," said Dale, her voice breaking and her eyes filling with tears, during a heart-wrenching interview at their home.

"It's like he's just dropped off the face of the earth," added Jack, a high-achieving student at Ascension Collegiate who has ambitions of becoming a lawyer — and who looks a lot like his father.

It's been a tumultuous five days for Dale O'Driscoll and her 17-year-old son, Jack, of Bay Roberts. Mike O'Driscoll, a well-known retired educator, has been missing since Friday, Feb. 23.
It's been a tumultuous five days for Dale O'Driscoll and her 17-year-old son, Jack, of Bay Roberts. Mike O'Driscoll, a well-known retired educator, has been missing since Friday, Feb. 23.

It's been a tumultuous five days for Dale O'Driscoll and her 17-year-old son, Jack, of Bay Roberts. (Terry Roberts/CBC)

Dale O'Driscoll remembers looking into the backyard of her Bay Roberts home on Friday around the noon hour and seeing a familiar sight — her husband of 27 years, Mike O'Driscoll, breaking up ice on the pathway to his shed.

He had just finished a morning shift at a nearby sandwich shop, which was a post-retirement gig following a 30-year career as an educator that ended last spring at Amalgamated Academy.

Dale went upstairs to get dressed, with plans to go outside and speak with her husband. But in the minutes it took her to get ready, Mike had left their Water Street property.

"I left it alone," said Dale, "thinking he just went off somewhere."

It was the last time she saw her husband.

Mike O'Driscoll's bicycle is now back in his Bay Roberts shed. But searchers discovered it chained to a tree near Madrock Cafe on Saturday. His backpack was discovered not far away on a coastal hiking trail on Monday.
Mike O'Driscoll's bicycle is now back in his Bay Roberts shed. But searchers discovered it chained to a tree near Madrock Cafe on Saturday. His backpack was discovered not far away on a coastal hiking trail on Monday.

Mike O'Driscoll's bicycle is now back in his Bay Roberts shed. But searchers discovered it chained to a tree near Madrock Cafe on Saturday. His backpack was discovered not far away on a coastal hiking trail on Monday. (Terry Roberts/CBC)

Mike didn't return home that night, but Dale wasn't alarmed because it wasn't unusual for him to go gambling in the evening and sleep in the backroom when he returned late at night.

But when Dale stirred Saturday morning, there was still no sign of Mike. Perhaps he had come home and left early in the morning, she thought.

A dedicated worker

But she knew something was wrong when Mike, who is very dedicated to his work — whether as a guidance counsellor or on the sandwich line — didn't show up for his 4 p.m. Saturday shift at Subway.

That's when she called the police, and the search began.

A witness came forward who said they saw Mike riding his bicycle along Water Street on Friday afternoon toward a popular coastal hiking spot called the Madrock, also known as the Shoreline Heritage Walk.

It was the first lead, and searchers quickly found O'Driscoll's bicycle chained to a fence near the Madrock Cafe. There was another break Monday, when a hiker discovered O'Driscoll's army surplus backpack along the trail.

The search intensified Tuesday, with a helicopter in the air, a rescue boat scouring the coastline, and volunteers with the Wolverines search team inspecting the rugged terrain on foot.

But as hope for a good outcome faded, Dale O'Driscoll began to accept what looked to be a grim reality.

"I just need him found. The expectation of him still alive, being down there for [five] days is slim, but I still need his body to say goodbye. To bury him," she said.

Known as 'Mr. O.D.' to his students

Mike O'Driscoll was an avid cyclist, outdoorsman, woodworker and artist. There's hardly a piece of furniture in the family home that doesn't feature his craftsmanship, and one of the artistic centrepieces in the living room is a painting of spring daisies — Dale's favourite flower — that Mike created for his wife of 27 years in 2022.

To his students, he was known as "Mr. O.D.," and based on the many comments on the RCMP's Facebook page this week, he was popular.

The O'Driscolls often visit the Madrock area, and Mike was known to go there on his own year-round.

"He's always been drawn to the woods, to nature, to getting back to a simpler life. He abhors technology. He refuses to carry a phone with him," said Jack.

But something went wrong, and Dale had a theory: "I think he maybe slipped or something and fell in the ocean."

Dale and Jack are encouraged by the frantic search effort and the outpouring of public support, but the unexpected heartbreak also had Jack expressing some regrets.

"Maybe we didn't get enough time together … to really bond," he said. "And I think that now that he might be gone, there's there's a lot that could have been said, it could have been done, that doesn't have that chance anymore."

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