As temperatures dipped below -5 C on Sunday, a group of volunteer scuba divers spent hours in the frigid waters of the Yamaska River in Farnham, Que., searching for a girl who has been missing since 2005.
“We have snow, we have cold, we have ice and we have difficult entry into the river and a very difficult exit,” said lead diver Antonio Alves.
Mélina Martin went missing in January 2005 in Farnham, about an hour east of Montreal. She was 13 at the time. The case was never solved.
Recently, her family contacted an organization called Unresolved Murders and Disappearances Quebec. The group was co-founded by Stéphane Luce and Marie-Claude Blanchard, whose mothers are both victims in unsolved murder cases.
“My mother was murdered in Montreal. She was found in Lac des Deux Montagnes, and it’s still unresolved to this day, 36 years later,” said Blanchard.
Unresolved Murders and Disappearances Quebec got in touch with Alves’ organization, Investigation Criminel Sous l’Eau, and he and his colleagues planned the scuba diving operation in the Yamaska River.
“We have information that Mélina had disappeared in this area,” Alves said between dives from the Farnham Nature Centre.
Alves, shivering as he spoke with Global News, said he’s been diving since 1989.
“We help families. We help organizations to find people who disappeared in the water,” he said.
For the divers, it was a training exercise, but they’ve now begun training in locations where they just might find something.
“If we don’t, we don’t,” said Blanchard. “But at least it’s one step more in finding clues for Mélina’s family.”
Martin’s mother and sisters were full of different emotions as they watched.
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“We keep hope,” said Martin’s mother, Francoise Algier. “As long as I don’t have a body in front of me, I keep hope.”
Though they hoped Martin’s body would not be found, they were full of gratitude that someone was looking.
“At a certain point, it’s very much appreciated,” said Martin’s sister, Tanya. “Not even the police did this.”
“We’re hoping to give another life to Mélina Martin today, to say she matters and was not forgotten,” said Blanchard.
A spokesperson for the Quebec provincial police told Global News the police had no problem with what the divers were doing, that the 13-year-old case was still an active one and that they would investigate any new leads.
Quebec provincial police have no comment on the family’s allegation they didn’t do enough to find the young girl back in 2005.
No clues were found on Sunday.
Both organizations plan to co-ordinate more dives in support of the families of missing people whose cases were never solved.