Volunteer dies in search and rescue effort

Crews searching the Goat River after reports that a car had gone off the road just south of Creston and being submerged in the river. - Lorne Eckersley
Crews searching the Goat River after reports that a car had gone off the road just south of Creston and being submerged in the river.
— image credit: Lorne Eckersley

An unidentified 28-year old female West Kootenay volunteer BC Search and Rescue technician drowned on Wednesday afternoon while her crew was attempting to recover a vehicle in the Goat River.

RCMP and search and rescue personnel were called to the bridge on Highway 21 south of Creston late on Wednesday afternoon to investigate a report of a vehicle having gone off the road and submerging in the river.

Earlier in the week, Creston RCMP Staff Sgt. Bob Gollan announced that Lana Leia Sundby Chipesia, 23, was missing and last seen at a local pub at 11 p.m. on June 18. She was driving a white Pontiac Sunfire.

“Search and rescue team resources required to carry out an examination of the vehicle mustered at the location, with an objective of determining if there were any occupants in the submerged vehicle,” said Cpl. Dan Moskaluk, senior media relations officer for the RCMP southeast and north districts, on Thursday morning.

Swift water line equipment and a swift watercraft were deployed and, in an attempt to attach a tow chain to the submerged vehicle, one of the search and rescue members went overboard into the river and did not surface. Efforts to locate and rescue the volunteer, whose identity has not been released, as well as the car, were continuing through Thursday morning.

Police have been unable to confirm whether there is a body in the submerged vehicle, or if the vehicle matches the description of Chipesia’s car.

No further details with respect to the identity of the deceased search and rescue technician are being released pending notification of next of kin.

“Our condolences and thoughts are with the family members as well as with B.C. volunteer search and rescue team members,” Moskaluk said.

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