A two-day long rescue mission has been turned into a recovery operation to find the body of a missing diver now presumed drowned in Okanagan Lake.
A coordinated search effort entered day three on Monday as emergency responders and specialized dive teams attempted to locate the missing 52-year-old man.
Emergency crews rushed to the east side of the William Bennett Bridge in response to a 911 call for a report of a possible drowning, at approximately 2:50 p.m. on Saturday.
The swimmer was with a diving group, but failed to resurface and the group was unable to locate him.
The Kelowna fire department, Central Okanagan Search and Rescue (COSAR), as well as the RCMP Underwater Recovery Team are involved in the extensive search efforts.
“Despite extensive efforts, they were unable to locate the man, and he is presumed to have drowned. Today, the RCMP Underwater Recovery Team and COSAR are at the location attempting to locate the man’s body,” said Cpl. Jocelyn Noseworthy in a media release.
COSAR search manager Duane Tresnich said nine members scoured the chilly waters for 12 hours on Saturday, from approximately 6 a.m. to 6 p.m., but failed to locate the man.
“We were using our main rescue craft and we brought out our Zodiac. The RCMP had their dive boat and we used our underwater camera and our side sonar,” he said.
Tresnich added that search and rescue are playing a support role for the RCMP’s dive team on Monday.
It remains unclear what happened to the man, who is said to be an experienced recreational diver.
“They were all diving and somehow he became separated and failed to surface with the rest of them,” Tresnich said.
“He entered on the north side and failed to surface on the south side.”
Tresnich said lake conditions on Saturday afternoon may have been problematic for diving.
“There was an unusually strong current flowing underneath the bridge at this time of year,” he said.
Searchers are renewing calls for the public to provide space and distance on the lake while the search continues.
“Yesterday there were quite a few boats that did attempt to go underneath that pass, including a jet ski that went through full throttle, so it made things very difficult.”
“At this time, searchers are unable to estimate how long this operation will be ongoing,” RCMP added.