Helicopter will help scan area in western Manitoba for man last seen 3 weeks ago, chief says
Family, volunteers and leadership from Thunder Gott’s home community of Sapotaweyak Cree Nation continue to search for the missing 28-year-old man three weeks on, ramping up efforts Wednesday with a helicopter search.
Acting as a family spokesperson, Gott’s uncle Humphrey Genaille said fruitless vehicle, snowmobile and foot searches of vast farmland and wooded areas north of Swan River have led the family to fear the worst.
It’s felt like “looking for a needle in a haystack,” he said.
“‘I’ve broken down maybe a couple times … and my sister, [Thunder’s mother], has broken down a number of times,” he said. “She is worried sick.… The only thing that’s keeping her going is family support.”
The father of three was last seen in the early hours of Dec. 26 on Wuskwi Sipihk First Nation and reported missing a few days later, according to RCMP.
Gott, who is from Sapotaweyak, also has family in Swan River.
Searchers have concentrated on areas including Birch River, 50 kilometres north of Swan River, in part because they spoke with a couple who said they picked up Gott and drove him to to the Birch River town junction, said Genaille. He said his nephew also used to work in that community.
Snowmbilers have searched a 40-kilometre stretch along Highway 10 from Mafeking south to Birch River, to the west of Wuskwi Sipihk, and where Gott was last seen, said Sapotaweyak Chief Nelson Genaille. People have also been asking around in Swan River hoping to find leads.
Chief Genaille, a cousin of Humphrey Genaille, said Sapotaweyak leadership has supplied food and fuel for searches and is helping co-ordinate.
On Monday, he called Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak, which represents dozens of northern First Nations, to see if they could arrange to send a helicopter. Drones haven’t been performing well in the cold, the chief said.
A Sapotaweyak councillor will take off from Swan River in a helicopter Wednesday morning to scan areas near Birch River thanks to MKO’s support, said Chief Genaille.
“There’s so much land and so much snow, the only option is helicopter,” he said.
Gott was wearing a a grey hooded sweatshirt, light green Columbia jacket, black pants and black boots when he was last seen on Boxing Day, RCMP said.
Anyone with information that could help investigators is asked to contact Swan River RCMP at 204-734-4686. Anonymous tips can be made through Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477 or through the Crime Stoppers website.
Humphrey Genaille said the family is considering holding a news conference in the near future to raise more awareness.
“All the family is concerned,” he said. “We need Thunder back, we want Thunder back. If anyone has information, please report it.”
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