Search underway for missing Nova Scotia man in Calgary

Greg McNeil
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Justin McNeil, a 19-year-old from Glace Bay is missing after falling into a river near Calgary on Sunday. Submitted

TC MEDIA

The family of a Glace Bay native who went missing after falling into a river near Calgary are asking former Cape Bretoners living in Alberta to help them in their search for him.

The 19-year-old works in Calgary and was camping with friends at the Nature's Hideaway Campground in Okotoks on Sunday evening when he slipped into the Highwood River.

"His friends followed him down to the river as far as they could but said they couldn't reach him because the rapids were going too quickly," said Courtney McNeil, his sister.

"Our hope is that he was able to get out of the current at some point. His friends, they ended up losing him once the river widened a bit and it was dark and they couldn't see him."

Okotoks RCMP would not provide any information on the incident to the Cape Breton Post.

However, a press release from the detachment indicated that McNeil was with four friends at the campground around 7:15 p.m. when he was caught up in the current and swept downstream.

Okotoks and Turner Valley RCMP officers, Okotoks and Foothills Fire Departments responded with boats to search the river, its banks and surrounding area.

Calgary Police Service also made extensive patrols of the area as well as 10 kilometres downstream, according to the press release, which all brought negative results.

McNeil said the family is not happy with the extent of the search efforts for her brother. That's why they're asking for the public's help.

Their mother Cathy, who adopted Justin, arrived in Calgary Wednesday morning. Members of Justin's birth family are also on hand.

"We talked to all the Calgary news stations and want to get the word out at home because there are a lot of people from Cape Breton who travel to Calgary for work," said Courtney.

"If there are families out there or friends. We are just asking anybody to come to the area to help. We just need the resources and the people."

She said people are needed to help with the search, particularly people with boats.

"Once the river widens out there are a bunch of little islands and on the other side of the river it is all wooded areas," she said. "There's no sign of him anywhere around the water. He's big enough, so if he got out of the water he could be on the other side of the river or on one of these islands. He's not from there so if he's hurt or lost he wouldn't know where to go."

Foothills Search and Rescue members are expected to join the search Wednesday morning, according to a story in the Calgary Sun newspaper.

Robert Rossie, the group's president, told the newspaper there is generally an assessment phase that takes place before they are called in.

"With the water being so high and the flow being greater than normal there are pretty hazardous conditions," Rossie said after he was asked why SAR services weren't immediately requested by RCMP.

"The RCMP's primary concern is going to the safety of any additional people they put out there."

Helicopters are expected to patrol on Wednesday and a drone was used to scour the area close to the water on Tuesday, according to the paper.

Organizations: RCMP, Cape Breton Post, Calgary Police Service Calgary Sun newspaper

Geographic location: Calgary, Okotoks, Nova Scotia Glace Bay Alberta Highwood River Cape Breton

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