A tragic ending five days into the search for a missing 17-year-old swimmer who dove into the South Saskatchewan River south of Saskatoon and disappeared.
On Friday morning, RCMP confirmed that a body had been recovered believed to be that of Justin Warwaruk of Outlook, Sask.
“At approximately nine o’clock this morning, a deceased male was discovered one mile south of the Fred Heal canoe launch – downstream from the canoe launch where the 17-year-old youth went missing,” said Cmdr. Greg Abbott with Saskatoon RCMP.
“We believe that it is the 17-year-old we’ve been looking for – the family has been advised and we’re doing an exterior autopsy to make that confirmation as well.”
It’s a heartbreaking ending for family and friends of Warwaruk, many of whom had tear-stained faces as they packed up their gear to go home.
“On behalf of the family and the RCMP, I would like to take the opportunity to thank all of the support services, all of the volunteers and specialized units that we’re involved with this,” Abbott said.
“It really brings to the fore – the community spirit in helping to bring some closure to this.”
At approximately 8:45 p.m. CT on Sunday, authorities were notified of Warwaruk’s disappearance from the popular canoe launch some 12 kilometres south of Saskatoon.
RCMP said where his body was located is not usual given the dynamic nature of the river and was found in the water after the search resumed Friday morning.
“The surface search was certainly in that area and why it was that he came to the surface when he did is a matter of something that is very variable,” Abbott said.
It was anticipated this could happen which is why the search intensified Thursday with both a canine unit and air boat.
Searchers were on the river when the storm hit Thursday evening and people were stranded on fingers of islands when the storm was taking place, doing anything in the hopes of finding Justin.
RCMP said while the discovery of his body is tragic, it also came as a huge relief to the family and resources from all parts of the province – knowing the search is over and there can be some closure.
“Historically there have been many cases where we’re talking about a long, long period of time – where human remains are found months and sometimes years after.”
An external autopsy was conducted on Warwaruk by Friday afternoon; at the request of the family his photo is no longer being used.
Global News talked to family members and friends off-camera on Friday who said they caution everyone to be careful when in and around the river.
When asked what Justin was like, they said up to 300 people had been on-site throughout the week searching for him and that should say enough about who he was, how much he was loved and how much he’ll be missed.