Family of missing fishermen still hopeful and seek help with ground search

Pearl Lorentzen
Lakeside Leader

The family of missing men on Great Slave Lake plan to continue the ground search. They seek prayer and resources to aid the search.

The missing men are Daniel Courtoreille, Michael Courtoreille, Jason Fulton and Stacy Linington. Linington is from Hay River, NT, but lives seasonally in Slave Lake. The other three are from Faust. Daniel and Michael are brothers and Fulton is their cousin.

Emma New, from Slave Lake, a cousin the three men from Faust. She joined the search on Wednesday, October 2. Other family members were already there.

“We still have hope, and we have a lot of people of people over there who are not leaving without their loved ones,” says New. “Our ground search is not done. As soon as we can go back out we plan to.”

Fulton worked as a hunting guide in BC, is very traditional and a hunter himself, says New. If the men got off the boat, there is still hope, as Fulton has the skills to live off the land.

New describes her family as having strong belief.

“We believe in the power of prayer,” she says. “We ask that people keep praying.”

New returned to Slave Lake on October 7, but plans rejion the search on Friday, October 11. Bad weather kept the family from searching on October 7 and 8.

The four men left Hay River on the south shore of Great Slave Lake on September 29 for Sulphur Point, says an RCMP media release. They were expected back that night, but didn’t return. They were travelling in a 33-foot aluminum boat, with a pilot house, two engines, VHF radio, life jackets and fishing equipment.

In the morning of October 1, an aerial search spotted the boat in Windy Bay, says the report. Near the boat there were three debris fields, which included fishing equipment.

On October 6, RCMP divers searched the vessel for signs of the men and concluded that they were not on the boat or nearby.

As of October 7, Hay River RCMP scaled back the marine search for the four missing fishermen, says the report. The official search ended due to a combination of lack of evidence of the men and bad weather. However, community volunteers continue to organize ground searches and further aerial searches could happen in the coming weeks. These would focus on the western and southern shoreline.

The RCMP search focused on the water and air. Family and community members focused their search on the land.

On October 2, when New arrived in Hay River, the family took a boat to Sulphur Point to try to land. However, they were not able to get to shore. They regrouped at the Soaring Eagle Friendship Centre. They decided to start ground searches from Sandy Lake, a reserve outside of Hay River.

Family and community searches focus on the southern shore and 50 metres into the bush, according to New. There are 20 to 30 searchers. Each day they start off from Sandy Lake heading east and west. Searchers get up at 8 a.m. and return at 8 p.m. to compare notes and sleep. They’ve searched 70 to 80 kilometers west and 40 kilometers east. Going west, the searchers cover parts of it by canoe. There are also people searching by canoe.

To the west, they’ve found huts in the bush made out of bent branches, teepee poles tied with unweathered string, fire places, buoys and fishnet floaters, says New. Locals say that people do not go out to this area.

To the east they’ve found fish boxes belonging to Linington, with his initials on them, says New. They’ve also found orange rubber gloves, but most local fishermen use blue.

“It’s exhausting, but we haven’t lost hope,” New says. “If that was us out there, we wouldn’t want people to give up.”

The RCMP search included various agencies.

“We are extremely grateful to our partner agencies in their courageous efforts to locate these missing men, assisting us in many ways,” says Sgt Brandon Humbke, Hay River Detachment NCO. ”We are also thankful to the citizens of Hay River, in supporting the families that came up to be closer during the search efforts. Our thoughts are with the families at this time.” 

“RCMP wish to remind community volunteers to use extreme caution and plan ahead if venturing out on the land or water as the weather conditions may become hazardous and unpredictable,” says the media release. “Should anyone have any information, or see anything that could be related to the missing persons, RCMP request they bring the information to their local detachment. If further evidence comes to light, lifting the marine search suspension may be reevaluated.”

“We have hope to find something, whether that be them or signs,” New says. “If there are any resources out there which would help us get to these points we want to search we greatly appreciate it.”

An example of assistance would be use of OHVs to help them cover the ground they’ve already search quickly to reach new areas.

People interested in helping or contributing to the search can contact New at 780-805-0710.

Family of missing Faust men searching the shores of Great Slave Lake. Left to right: Bev Emes (sister of Michael and Daniel, cousin to Jason), Emma New (cousin), Ben New (Jason’s aunt), Jack Lukan family friend. Dogs Hunter and Time.
A few more of the 10 to 30 people searching for the missing fishermen on Great Slave Lake. Left to right: Stephanie Woodman (Jason’s sister), Kal Willier, Marian Budskin (sister Jason), at the back, John Laderoute (husband Michael and Daniel’s sister), Michael Fulton (Jason’s brother), and Francis Budskin (uncle to all three).

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