Search crews not giving up on missing Alberta men north of Sault Ste Marie, Ont.

·2 min read
Rescue teams from the Joint Rescue Coordination Centre in Trenton, Ont., have set up a control centre in Sault Ste. Marie to assist in the search for two missing Alberta men en route to Marathon.  (Twitter/@JRCCTrentCCCOS - image credit)
Rescue teams from the Joint Rescue Coordination Centre in Trenton, Ont., have set up a control centre in Sault Ste. Marie to assist in the search for two missing Alberta men en route to Marathon. (Twitter/@JRCCTrentCCCOS - image credit)

Although the search north of Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., for a missing aircraft and the two Alberta occupants was called off Sunday, search-and-rescue professionals plan to continue training in the area in case they find anything.

On April 14, the two men were reported missing when their Piper Comanche aircraft vanished from radar near Lake Superior.

John Fehr and Brian Slingerland were flying between Delhi in southern Ontario and the town of Marathon on the north shore of Lake Superior when they disappeared.

Search-and-rescue groups said they flew 360 hours and covered more than 17,000 square kilometres to find the two men, but the efforts were called off Sunday.

A news release from the Canadian Armed Forces said it was called off after they determined both men had little likelihood of surviving in the wilderness.

Ontario Provincial Police took over the case as a missing persons case.

While the military operation has ended, the search-and-rescue professionals plan to train where they believe the plane crashed, in case they spot something.

"We're always training. So I think that in the coming months that a lot of our training will be hopefully, you know, we'll think about that area," said Paul Pressaco, unit director for Sudbury and District Air Search and Rescue.

Facebook/Mary Reimer
Facebook/Mary Reimer

'Finding a needle in a haystack'

Pressaco said finding a downed plane in the vast northern Ontario wilderness is like "finding a needle in a haystack."

He said the Piper Comanche is white, and there was still snow on the ground in the area they were searching.

Pressaco said it can sometimes take years to find an aircraft in a wooded area. He recalled one of his first search-and-rescue operations — the aircraft was discovered by accident around eight years later.

"It was, I think, a hunter that had come across the site about seven or eight years later."

But he said some of his searches have ended on a more positive note.

About four years ago, his team rescued a pilot who had run out of fuel and landed on a remote lake. They spotted the plane about 30 minutes into their search.

Pressaco said search-and-rescue spotters are trained to look for any disturbance in the landscape, such as broken trees or the shine of metal.

"Hopefully this one is resolved at some point."

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