A search team from Kitchener has travelled down to Lake Erie in the hopes of recovering the body of nine-year-old Alex Ottley, who was swept into the waterway in mid-February.
The move comes after Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) scaled back their search off of Peacock Point last Tuesday saying sonar, helicopter and shoreline searches were unsuccessful.
Over a dozen volunteers and two boats make up the team directed by the Advanced Tactical Training Search and Rescue (ATTSR) group which typically assists in private searches for missing persons utilizing marine units, aviation teams and dogs.
Senior trainer Bill Bolton told Global News that their search for Ottley began on the weekend around the shoreline at Peacock Point and will continue for the rest of the week with marine units, dogs and drones.
“So today (Monday) and the rest of the week is going to be on the water,” said Bolton. “And it’s all around Peacock Point, basically both sides at this point, where we’re expanding the search beyond what OPP did and we’re just going to expand from there.”
Bolton says the team took on the recovery mission after the family of Ottley requested the group’s services.
“The family reached out to us and the family asked us to get involved. And so that’s where we started looking at what was happening, what the police were doing, where we may be able to assist.”
A dive team from Manitoba also joined ATTSR in their search on Monday morning. Bolton says they are also expecting a team from the U.S. to join in on Tuesday.
Obviously, we’re hoping to do recovery sooner than that, but we’ve got a timeframe of about a week. Then we will reconsider and see what else we could do,” Bolton said.
Const. Rod LeClair told Global News that the suspension of OPP searches does not mean the end of their participation in the process. Leclair says the service is monitoring the volunteer search and will continue to expend resources should Ottley not be recovered.
“The plan will still be to do periodic searches (shoreline and aerial) in the future as resources are available,” said LeClair.
Bolton says he’s hoping for a quick recovery to provide closure for the family. So far, he says volunteers have been very accommodating.
“The community has been fantastic in their outreach in helping us with accommodation, with food,” Bolton said. “It’s just been phenomenal.
“It’s appreciated by everybody, which makes it easier for us to be able to do what we do.”