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This article was published 23/3/2016 (1880 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
AUSTIN — Destiny Turner, the tired and distraught mother of a toddler who went missing from their farmyard Tuesday evening, buried her face in her hands and cried.
"He’s just a little boy. He can’t even take care of himself yet, and that’s the scary thing because he’s so dependent on me," Turner said Wednesday as hundreds of people searched for Chase Martens.
Late Wednesday evening, they still had not found the two-year-old after searching for more than 24 hours. RCMP said the search was to continue overnight.
Chase’s family lives about 130 kilometres west of Winnipeg.
RCMP plans a press conference in Austin at 11 a.m. today.
Turner said she was overwhelmed at the thought something bad happened to him.
Turner said her son was last seen around 6 p.m. Tuesday in the yard of the family home where he lives with her, father Tom Martens, and his sisters, aged six and seven.
Chase had been in the yard with his dad, who had been loading his truck. Father and son went for a ride to the store and returned.
The father dressed Chase in his boots, splash pants, hat and mitts, and the boy went outside as his dad went inside. The girls were inside watching TV.
Chase’s mother last saw her son through the window as she got ready to cook supper.
The boy was heading around the side of the house, and Turner thought he was going to hop on a tractor parked outside the home, something he likes to do.
When the parents went outside to call Chase to come in for supper, there was no response.
Her active and happy son has never wandered off, Turner said.
"He’s outside all the time, and I will call him once and he’ll go, ‘What!’" Turner said, adding her son never strayed past a wood pile in their yard.
Usually, the pets follow Chase, but their cats and their dog, Bingo, were lying on the ground outside the house.
Turner said she searched the dirt road that leads to the house and scanned the surrounding fields. When she reached the main road, she called to Chase, but there was no response.
"That’s when the panic started to sink in," she said.
Turner ran back to her property where Tom was calling to Chase as he searched the bush.
She said it had been no longer than 15 minutes from the time she saw Chase through the window until they realized he wasn’t there.
Turner called her sister, who advised her to call the fire department, which she did and the response was quick.
RCMP spokesman Sgt. Bert Paquet said Portage la Prairie RCMP were notified around 6 p.m. Tuesday Chase was missing.
Police and local fire department volunteers immediately started a search.
Tuesday evening, 300 volunteers had shown up to look for Chase, and the search continued throughout the night.
Turner and her husband both took part in the search. Turner said she followed a nearby creek, and added her husband was out all night. "We can’t even find a mitt or a footprint," Turner said.
On Wednesday, two planes and the Winnipeg police helicopter searched above the fields where the searchers walked slowly in a line as they scoured the ground for clues.
Others scoured through thick brush and woods that line the fields.
An exhausted David Wall, Chase’s uncle, noted the area has fields, trees and water.
"There’s a lot of bush around there and a creek. There is running water and ice there. But we’ve looked along the creeks and so far we haven’t found anything. No clothing or anything."
Wall said the creek, about half a kilometre away from the boy’s home, was one of the first places searchers checked because there is a trail to it from the residence.
"His dad chops wood there so he has been there before."
Searchers rode horses and ATVs, and police dogs assisted.
"What you are looking for is absolutely anything," a search official with the Office of the Fire Commissioner told searchers who gathered outside Chase’s home.
As they waited to help, members of the nearby Cascade Hutterite Colony sang hymns.
As word spread through media and social media, neighbours and friends quickly joined the search.
Kevin Ault grew up with Turner and was in Winnipeg when he heard the news. He drove out to help. "I dropped everything to come and help out with the family. I’m personal friends with the grandfather of the kid," he said.
Austin-area resident Bill Guenther said searchers came from across the area, including MacGregor, Brandon and Gladstone.
Guenther said he didn’t need much motivation to join the effort, and helped search an alfalfa field.
"This is just a given. It’s common sense. A little boy is missing," Guenther said, adding there’s some tough terrain to cover, such as the thick trees and brush along the creek.
RCMP estimated there were more than 300 searchers, but a pair of searchers said there were 500 to 600.
One searcher estimated the temperature overnight Wednesday had been about -12 C. Paquet called that concerning.
Paquet said RCMP haven’t ruled out anything when it comes to Chase’s disappear ance, including foul play, but they’re focused on finding the boy safe and sound.
Chase is 30 pounds with blue eyes and light brown hair. He was last seen wearing a blue jacket, black splash pants, a red hat and boots. "Little boots that light up as you walk upon them," Paquet said.
He asked anyone with any information, no matter how insignificant it might seem, to immediately contact police.
"We’re looking for anything that will help us bring Chase home," Paquet said.
— Brandon Sun, with Free Press files