Dozens of volunteers gathered at the Cowichan River Wednesday to search for a missing 28-year-old man swept away in the rising floodwaters last Thursday night.
Trained search and rescue crew have deemed the conditions too dangerous for recovery. However, volunteers like Jerome Crocker were out Wednesday covering kilometres of shoreline near Duncan and the open ocean beyond Cowichan River in the search for Ethan Sampson, a Cowichan Tribes man.
Crocker used his binoculars looked at the debris floating in the ocean off Cowichan Bay, both hopeful and nervous about what he might find.
“It’s very straining. It jumps every time you think you see something your heart rate just starts going,” Crocker said.
Sampson was last seen along Quamichan Road West in the waters of the Cowichan River on Jan. 30 at 10:40 p.m. Friends and family report he was seen standing on a bridge before being swept away in the raging floodwaters. He was reportedly calling for help. Police, Cowichan Search and Rescue (SAR) and North Cowichan Fire Department were initially responded to look for Ethan in the area.
As of Wednesday, the river is still high and muddy, with low visibility below the surface. Volunteers from Malahat and Snuneymuxw First Nations, as well as other areas, have been returning to the Cowichan River daily to look for Sampson.
Crocker said the volunteers have heard about the dangerous conditions as well.
“But we still have to come out and look,” Crocker said.
Drones were used during the search Wednesday. Volunteers walked along the banks of the river, exploring log jams and debris. Boats were used to look at the debris and murky water pushed out of the Cowichan River into the open ocean.
“As First Nations people we come together. When there’s family in need, that’s what we do,” Jen Charlie, the spokesperson for Sampson, said.
The volunteer searchers plan to return to the area Thursday to try once again.
Sampson is described as approximately 5’11,” between 120 to 150 pounds with a slender build. He was last seen wearing rolled-up jeans. Anyone who has information regarding the whereabouts of Ethan Sampson can call North Cowichan/Duncan RCMP at 250-748-5522. To remain anonymous, contact Crime Stoppers at cowichancrimestoppers.com to leave a secure tip online, or call 1-800-222-8477.