June 19, 2017 10:11 pm
Updated: June 19, 2017 10:39 pm

Search for missing Lethbridge couple and plane curtailed

On the final days of the search for a missing Alberta couple and a small plane in the BC Southern Interior, pilots scour more than 37,000 square kilometres for any small sign.

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The Department of National Defence (DND) is wrapping up operations after 12 days of searching for a Lethbridge couple and a private plane missing in the B.C. Southern Interior.

Families of the missing couple have been notified, according to Victoria Search and Rescue Region Commander Rear-Admiral Art McDonald.

“Our thoughts are with them during this extremely difficult time,” McDonald said late Monday afternoon.

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Alex Simons and his girlfriend Sidney Robillard, both 21, were last seen June 8 at the Cranbrook airport where they stopped to gas up.

Unless strong new evidence is brought forward, no further searchers are expected, according to the McDonald.

The Piper aircraft with the call letters CGDTK, is owned by Excel Flight Training in Lethbridge, Alta.

The couple left Lethbridge that morning en route for Kamloops.

A total of 18 Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) and civilian planes with the Civil Air Search and Rescue (CASARA) have flown approximately 576 hours and covered some 37,513 square kilometres, according to McDonald.

“Alongside more than 70 RCAF personnel were 137 volunteer pilots and spotters from CASARA averaging 10 aircraft per day,” McDonald said.

Simons brother told Global News his brother had less than nine months experience as a pilot.

A thunderstorm rolled through the area shortly after the plane departed Cranbrook, making weather a possible factor in the plane’s disappearance, DND spokesperson Lt.-Col. Bryn Elliott said during the early days of the search.

McDonald said the aircraft was equipped with an electronic locating device, but no viable signals were detected during the search.

The Kelowna search headquarters is being dismantled and DND staff are returning to Comox over the next few days.

© 2017 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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