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Happy ending to Watino area search mission

Two people are safe after spending a night on the Smoky River. A number of emergency services worked together to track down the missing boaters Monday morning.

The pair was expected in Watino by midnight but they never arrived. In the morning their family took to social media to alert the public. Acting District Fire Chief Jason Nesbit with the County of Grande Prairie says someone who saw the post reached out to emergency services.

“Through that post, we were able to get in touch with relatives of the two persons that were missing in the boat. They had departed Magoo’s Landing at 7 o’clock on Sunday night and were expected in Watino by midnight.”

The family had organized their own small search party that was heading out on the river. Nesbit says they also had a number of resources ready to help.

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“Due to the weather conditions with the wind and rain and cold temperatures we requested the assistance of STARS to go fly the river to see if they could locate them. In conjunction with that, we also requested the Grovedale Fire Department to respond to the Smoky River with their jet boat in case they were required.”

The RCMP and the M.D. of Smoky River Fire Department were also ready with boats to help if needed.

The missing boat was later found by STARS Air Ambulance near the Riverstone Campground. Nesbit says it was about halfway to their destination.

“The boat had become heavily stuck in a [sandbar] on the river and they were unable to get the boat off the bar. They ended up spending the night on the river.”

Nesbit says just as STARS arrived one of the other boats found the missing boaters and was able to signal that everyone was ok. He says the river conditions right now are safe for boating. Nesbit adds it is important to be prepared and have a plan.

“If you’re going to be out on the river [make sure] that you have appropriate food, clothing and survival gear. If you end up stranded obviously in the areas between Grande Prairie and Watino there are vast areas of no cell coverage or people and steep river valleys. So, help can be hard to find.”

Nesbit also says having a plan with family or friends that know where you are and when you are expected to return is key.

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