'We're still just trying to be hopeful': Friends and volunteers search for missing Abbotsford man on Fraser River
VANCOUVER -- People spent hours Wednesday searching along the Fraser River and surrounding shoreline for any sign of a missing Abbotsford man. Twenty-nine-year-old Damian Dutrisac hasn’t been seen since the boat he was fishing in sank on May 7 near Chilliwack.
Dutrisac was out fishing last Friday afternoon on the Fraser River near the mouth of the Sumas River when the boat’s anchor got stuck, and the vessel went under. Kristen Parker’s boyfriend Andrew was in the boat with Damian, and managed to swim to safety.
“Andrew somehow swam about 400 yards to get to shore,” she said. “He said he looked back and he could see Damian swimming towards him, and once he got to shore, he could no longer see him.”
Karyssa Mclean and Dutrisac had just gotten engaged last fall.
“Neither of them had life jackets, for some stupid reason,” she said through tears on Tuesday. “He didn’t deserve this. He’s the strongest guy I’ve ever known. It doesn’t seem fair, or real.”
Police and search and rescue crews were called out, along with an RCMP helicopter and the Lower Mainland District Integrated police dog section. They eventually ended their search later on Friday. Chilliwack RCMP spokesperson Cpl. Mike Rail told CTV News Vancouver the river is high right now due to the spring snow melt, and fast-moving.
“The water conditions on the river are preventing further search from taking place,” he said Tuesday.
When asked whether another official search effort could be relaunched, Rail said that’s a decision that would be made in the future.
“Again, it would be according to weather and river conditions,” he said.
Local fishing guide Steve Simpson is a longtime friend of the man who made it to shore, and helped organize Wednesday’s search.
“Right now, we’re dealing with freshet,” Simpson said. “So, the river is up, the river is moving, and there is a lot of debris in the river, but we’re still out there fishing … It would be nice to have search and rescue out there helping because that would be twice the boats we had.”
Simpson said he reached out to the local fishing community and others, and offers of help have been pouring in.
“Guys with boats that are just recreational fishermen are coming out, guys with boats that don’t fish are coming out,” he said. “We’ve covered basically from the Port Mann bridge up to the mouth of the Vedder.”
Parker described Dutrisac as someone who makes the best out of every situation.
“We know that if he was on the other end of things, he would be doing exactly what we’re doing,” she said. “We’re still just trying to be hopeful and really thankful for everybody who’s come out and offered their support.”