Search continues for missing sturgeon fisherman as fiancé waits for word

·2 min read
Damian Dutrisac and Karyssa Mclean were planning to get married in October 2021. He vanished May 7 after falling out of a boat while sturgeon fishing on the Fraser River. (Submitted by Karyssa Mclean - image credit)
Damian Dutrisac and Karyssa Mclean were planning to get married in October 2021. He vanished May 7 after falling out of a boat while sturgeon fishing on the Fraser River. (Submitted by Karyssa Mclean - image credit)

Dozens of fishing boats are searching the Fraser River between Chilliwack and Mission for a missing 29-year-old Abbotsford man who fell into the icy water on Friday while sturgeon fishing with a friend.

Fishing guide Steve Simpson said that Damian Dutrisac and Simpson's friend Andrew Newton were fishing around 2 p.m. near the mouth of the Sumas River when the anchor of their boat got caught and both men were bucked off as water filled the back of the boat.

"They panicked as they were trying to get the anchor out and as they were trying to pull up the anchor the water came up the back of the boat and threw Andrew off the boat and Damian off the boat," said Simpson who spoke to CBC's The Early Edition Wednesday morning with Newton.

Newton said he swam to shore, making it to a small island, then had to wait for at least an hour to flag down a boat to get help.

"[Newton] was distraught and he was absolutely beside himself. He threw up for half an hour just from pure exhaustion," said Simpson.

Damian Dutrisac and his fiance Karyssa Mclean in happy times.
Damian Dutrisac and his fiance Karyssa Mclean in happy times.(Submitted by Karyssa McLean)

Three search parties left from Chilliwack, Fort Langley and Ladner early Wednesday to attempt to locate the missing fisherman.

Dutrisac had just proposed to his fiancé Karyssa Mclean last September. She said he'd taken up sturgeon fishing recently and had only been out about three times.

She was horrified when she learned how small the boat was — and the fact the two men had no life jackets on. She described her husband as a longshoreman who was strong-minded, loving and athletic.

"One of our last conversations was how exciting it was to get married — how it didn't matter who was going to be there. It was a heartwarming touching conversation that I can't believe was one of the last," said Mclean.

She knew something was wrong when he failed to reply to her text messages.

"I didn't expect that you know," she said.

On Friday night, an initial search was called off after it got too dark. Simpson says the waters of the Fraser are treacherous right now, swollen with the spring freshet.

Chilliwack RCMP have no further plans to search, and Simpson said it deemed the water too dangerous to allow SAR to participate.

Mclean says she'd just gotten her wedding dress and booked a venue for their marriage this upcoming October, and now all she can do is wait — and hope — he is found.

"He was really, really loving — I was so lucky."