A large-scale search and recovery operation, with volunteers coming from as far away as Kahnawake, Que., continues near the Cree community of Waskaganish, after a boat carrying four hunters capsized last week.
The four hunters left the community, located about 1,100 kilometres north of Montreal, last Tuesday around noon to go goose hunting but never arrived at their camp, according to the Eenou Eeyou Police force (EEPF). An aerial search last week, with the help of Department of National Defence, located the body of one of the hunters, Patrick Salt, 48, as well as the group's boat and some of their gear.
On Monday, more than 90 volunteers were involved in the recovery of the other three hunters, either by boat or by ATV along the south, east and west sides of Rupert Bay, according to Ryan Erless, the director of community services for Waskaganish.
Two divers from the Sûreté du Québec were also out searching the water Monday in an area about 11 kilometres west of the community. Over the weekend, the water search was hampered by high winds and tricky tides.
"It was south winds … it was quite a challenge for divers," said Erless, adding that water levels in the area during low tide can sometimes be as low as 1.5 metres.
"[Monday] the weather calmed down."
More than a few of the volunteers have come from other Cree communities such as Nemaska and Chisasibi, as well as from Moose Factory on the west side of James Bay. Another busload of volunteers and food donations coming from Nemaska — the closest Cree community to Nemaska about 250 kilometres east —is expected to leave Tuesday morning.
"The Cree Nation … we support each other," said Myles Blackned, EEPF Investigator Southern District. "If it was the other way around, Waskaganish would do the same thing."
'It helps them cope'
A search and recovery crew from the Mohawk community of Kahnawake near Montreal was also expected to arrive in Waskaganish Monday night to help in the search.
Waskaganish, pop. 2,300, has come together to find places for volunteers to stay and to buy and cook food for the search crews, according to Ryan Erless, something he says helps the families dealing the loss of their loved ones.
"I think it eases their anxiety," said Erless. "It helps them cope."
The search is expected to continue until the bodies of Kenneth Salt, 67; Matthew Diamond, 43; and Gabriel Shecapio, 30, are found.
The community says more volunteers are still needed and it is accepting donations to help with the costs of feeding and lodging everyone.