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Search called off for missing snowmobiler, RCMP now believe he fell through ice

Click to play video 'Search called off for missing snowmobiler' Search called off for missing snowmobiler
Joe Scarpelli reports on RCMP calling off the search for a missing Manitoba snowmobiler.

The search for a snowmobiler missing since Sunday evening has been called off after police now say they believe he fell through ice and is feared drowned.

RCMP have previously said a 50-year-old man went out snowmobiling in the Whiteshell Provincial Park around 4 p.m. Sunday.

Friends and family identified him as Dan Lemay. RCMP said Tuesday he is from Grunthal.

Late in the afternoon Tuesday police said the search had been called off after search teams found evidence Lemay had been crossing a lake when he hit open water, although his body has not been recovered.

Manitoba RCMP spokesperson Sgt. Paul Manaigre said a woman who lives along the lake told police on Tuesday she’d seen a snowmobiler near her property Sunday night, which led them to the spot they think Lemay fell into the water.

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“We backtracked to her property and then from there we found a snowmobile trail that led to basically a very thin layer of ice and a section that at that point opened up,” Manaigre told 680 CJOB.

“You could clearly see tracks going to the water, and then unfortunately nothing past that.”

In a release Tuesday evening, RCMP say two days of searching by more than 50 volunteers and numerous trained search and rescue teams, covering hundreds of kilometers of trails, hadn’t turned up any other evidence of where Lemay or his snowmobile may have gone.

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“The area we covered is extensive; we never located anything possibly related to where Lemay could be, so we have to assume at this point that he’s unfortunately entered the water,” he said.

“With the currents it’s too dangerous at this point to put any dive teams in there. We’re going to have to wait until the spring melt and hopefully we’ll get some closure for the family at that point.”

Read more: Manitoba RCMP say 5 people have died on snowmobiles this year (2020)

In a Facebook post, Lemay’s brother, Wayne, offered thanks to everyone who had been helping in the search.

“Tracks matching my brother’s sled were confirmed heading towards the water but not crossing to the other side,” Wayne wrote.

“While nothing is yet confirmed, the outcome seems inevitable. The investigation will be continuing and further updates will come from the RCMP.”

Lac du Bonnet RCMP received a report of the missing man around 11:30 Sunday night.

RCMP said Lemay left from Pinewood Lodge on a snowmobile to retrieve a broken snowmobile at Rennie. At about 7:15 p.m., he called a family member to say he was lost but believed he was close to Nutmik Lake.

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Two hours later, he called again to say he thought he was near Pinewood Lodge. He was not heard from again.

A command centre had been set up in the Whiteshell area.

The search expanded to include air support on Monday after there was no luck with a ground search Sunday.

The search teams and volunteers were packing up and leaving by late in the afternoon Tuesday, Manaigre said.

Rescue efforts continue for Danny Lemay, who has not returned from a snowmobile trip in the Whiteshell. RCMP

“Everybody stepped up,” Manaigre said of the effort to find Lemay.

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“The amount of equipment that showed up, we had people filling up snow machines on behalf of everyone out there, the meals that were brought in.

“The message got out quickly on social media, and boom, people responded.”

Police had said Lemay was dressed for conditions and knew the area, but they also said they were concerned about the lack of contact.

Lemay did not have supplies, such as food and water, with him, they added.

— With files from Joe Scarpelli and Amber McGuckin