A chopper equipped with thermal technology has been added to the search for a seasoned snowmobiler who went missing in the backwoods of Whiteshell Provincial Park on Sunday.
RCMP officers and local riders continued to search the trails for Dan Lemay, a 50-year-old Grunthal man who left Pinewood Lodge on Provincial Rd 307 around 4 p.m. that day. He intended to retrieve a broken snowmobile from Rennie, about 50 kilometres to the southeast on Highway 44, police said.
He had called a family member just after 7 p.m. and said he was uncertain about his location, but thought he was close to Nutimik Lake. He contacted the family member at 9:15 pm to say he thought he was near Pinewood Lodge.
That's the last they heard from him. He was reported missing to Lac du Bonnet RCMP around 11:30 p.m.
By 8 a.m. Monday, local snowmobilers who know the trails in the area were out looking for Lemay, RCMP said. The Civil Air Search and Rescue Association began to search in a low-flying plane while RCMP and crews from the Office of the Fire Commissioner continued to search on foot and snowmobile.
Some searchers Tuesday were focused on laneways that lead to cottages in the area.
"Just in case he went somewhere like that to try to stay warm," said Yvonne Rideout, executive director of Snoman Inc., a snowmobiling association.
The incident highlights the need for snowmobile safety among seasoned riders and new snowmobilers alike.
"Our message stays the same: Don’t ride alone," Rideout said. "If I was out on a sled, I’m almost out of gas, there’s nowhere around to get gas. If I was with somebody else, that person may have extra gas with them or at least be able to go and get help, but when you’re riding alone, that’s not an option."
The helicopter began flying over the area today to scour the bush for any heat signatures that could be Lemay, RCMP said.
He was dressed for the weather conditions — it was about -10 C overnight Sunday — and Lemay, an experienced rider, knows the area.
Police are concerned because he wasn't carrying food or water.
"We’re sitting and waiting to see what’s going to happen, what the outcome of this will be. We’re thankful it hasn’t been cold like it was last week," said Rideout.
It's important riders plan their route, let someone know when they'll return, and maintain equipment and dress appropriately for the weather.
Whiteshell is more than 2,700 square kilometres.
Erik Pindera is a multimedia producer at the Winnipeg Free Press.