Finding the remains of a young homicide victim was the main focus of a search of the Bow River on Thursday.
The annual search is an opportunity for agencies like the Calgary Fire Department and the Calgary Police Service to look for people who have gone missing.
According to police, of the roughly 5,000 people reported missing annually, a small number have entered the city’s waterways either voluntarily or involuntarily.
“Though we have yet to recover any remains of missing persons in the past five years of conducting this search, we believe this is a worthwhile effort,” Staff Sgt. Martin Schiavetta said in a news release.
“There is always the potential to find answers and bring some closure to the families and friends of missing loved ones.
“This year, we are focusing our efforts on the location of Shane Eric James Smith’s remains.”
Smith was reported missing by his family on Sunday, June 7.
Police said the 20-year-old was last seen in McKenzie Towne the previous day, June 6, and homicide investigators think he was killed that night at a home in the city’s southeast.
Despite the charges, investigators have yet to recover Smith’s body, something that family members say is preventing them from healing.
WATCH: The family of Shane Eric James Smith pleads for information into his disappearance
“It’s been awful. Just not knowing what happened and where he is,” Smith’s sister Cassandra Smith told Global News Thursday.
“Not being able to say goodbye. He doesn’t deserve to be out there all by himself. He doesn’t deserve not to be laid to rest properly.”
Smith would have turned 21 just a week ago, on Oct. 16.
Cassandra said seeing so many agencies come together in an effort to find her brother’s remains, though the family is still left searching for answers and grieving their loss.
“It shouldn’t have happened in the first place,” she said.
“Our family, every day wondering what happened. We have nightmares about it. And just wondering why or where. It’s incredibly painful. My poor parents, the pain that you see them go through every day is awful.”
Cassandra said when the weather is good, her father goes out on the river any time he can, sometimes others go with him, trying desperately to find his son’s body.
“My family is never going to stop looking for Shane. As much as we can, we will,” she said. “And we just have to pray that today is the day that they find him and we are very grateful to everyone that’s helping.”
The search, which began at 9:30 a.m., involved not only CPS and the fire department, but also Cochrane Fire Services (CFS), RCMP and the Calgary Search and Rescue Association (CALSARA).
“We cannot imagine the feelings of loss and helplessness families experience, not being able to put their loved one to rest,” Calgary Fire Department spokesperson Carol Henke said.
The search started at the Bearspaw Dam in the city’s northwest and moved south to the city limits. Aerial searches were also carried out in Elbow River Park and the Glenmore Reservoir.
An RCMP helicopter was also to be used to continue searching the Bow River from the southern city limits east toward the Saskatchewan border.
Should any remains be retrieved during the search, CPS will work with the medical examiner’s office to determine the person’s identity and if the death was natural or criminal.
The search is conducted every year in the fall when water levels are at their lowest and water is typically the clearest.
With files from Carolyn Kury de Castillo