Blessed with lakes, mountains and plenty of sunshine, the Okanagan is a vacationer’s paradise.
Not for Shanna Wilson, though.
Every time the Albertan visits the Okanagan, it’s with a heavy heart – unlike the thousands of smiling, happy visitors who flock to B.C.’s Southern Interior.
Four years ago, on June 28, 2015, Shanna Wilson’s younger brother, Curtis Wilson of Lethbridge, disappeared.
A B.C. Coroner’s report suggested that Curtis, 24, died from a suicide pact, though his name was not mentioned in the Kalamalaka Lake drowning report.
Shanna, who lives in Grande Prairie, questioned the report, and hasn’t stopped searching for her brother.
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“It’s hard to say,” Shanna, 31, said when asked if she believes Curtis is alive or dead. “It’s just that we don’t have any concrete evidence as to where he is.
“I do, myself — I’m not speaking for my whole family — believe that he’s in the water. But we don’t know. We don’t have anything concrete to say that he is. I believe strongly that he is in the area and that he didn’t go away from there.
Shanna said shortly after his disappearance, she received many messages, ranging from support to seeing Curtis in other provinces.
“I don’t know what happened, and, after such a long time, you stop speculating,” said Shanna. “We’ll never have answers to that, I believe.
With the four-year anniversary approaching, Shanna said it’s unlike Curtis to be out of contact.
“It would be completely out of character for my brother,” said Shanna. “He doesn’t like to worry his family.
“But it’s been a long time. But we have no answers, no explanations and we don’t have him. It’s really hard for closure and everything else. I think there are some people in my family who do believe that he’s out there, somewhere… it’s just a closure thing.”
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To date, Shanna has visited the Okanagan several times since Curtis’ disappearance, while her parents visit yearly.
“So many people opened their homes to us; complete strangers,” said Shanna. “They offered places to stay while we were down there, and that continued for a very long time.”
That they visit the Okanagan with a different outlook hasn’t escaped Shanna’s notice.
“Absolutely,” she said. “A couple of years ago when we were there, we took a break. My nephews were there and we took them out for a swim and stuff like that.
“We just kind of stood back and looked around at everybody on their Sea-Doos and their boats and just having fun. It is something that I have noticed, and it is a very strange feeling.
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As a result of Curtis’ disappearance, Shanna has joined a search and rescue organization.
“A few months after he went missing, I started volunteering for a K9 search and rescue group.”
Shanna calls the work invaluable, stating “I really enjoy going on deployments because I can relate with the families.
“I think that’s good for the families, too; just having somebody there who knows and understands what they’re going through, trying to find a loved one.”
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Shanna says she’ll continue to search for Curtis, “as people still do message me,” asking if he’s been found.
“No, we haven’t found him and we are still looking,” she said. “It’s a high traffic place and people are out on the water all the time. We are asking for people to keep their eyes open still.”