A multi-agency search for a missing man ended tragically Thursday morning as a body was recovered from the shoreline in Long Harbour.
Salt Spring Island Search and Rescue (SSISAR) joined efforts that would include Salt Spring RCMP, Canadian Coast Guard and Royal Canadian Marine Search and Rescue (RCMSAR) vessels — as well as a CH-149 Cormorant search and rescue helicopter from Comox — by 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, July 12. The search for a presumed missing boat operator began shortly after a vessel was sighted underway without a pilot — and a dog who came ashore was recognized — that afternoon.
Officials declined to identify the man due to pending investigations, but neighbours said both the dog — a black lab named Ninja — and boat belonged to islander Dinny Corcoran, who had been building a home on nearby Clamshell Islet since 2021.
As boats and aircraft methodically searched the water, more than a dozen SSISAR members split into four teams on both sides of the harbour and scoured the shoreline until dark, according to SSISAR search manager Zeke Blazecka. He said the land-based search was halted due to safety concerns at around 9:30 p.m. and with plans to resume first thing Thursday morning with the low tide.
But as SSISAR teams gathered at first light the next day, word came that a body identified as male had been located by a boater; a small team from SSISAR was sent to assist with transporting the body to a search vessel, which then brought it to a dock and the funeral director, Blazecka said.
“We had a good team out, and they were well prepared and did what they were trained to do,” said Blazecka.
The BC Coroners Service confirmed that agency had been notified of the death and had begun an investigation.
Family members arrived on Salt Spring on Sunday, according to SaltyDog Retreat Kennel and Rescue’s Jamie Halan-Harris, who had cared for the dog Ninja in the interim.
“He was pretty shaken up, but so excited to see the family when they came to pick him up,” said Halan-Harris. “He was practically smiling, jumped right in their truck. We were happy to help Ninja, it was a happy ending in a sad situation.”
Salt Spring RCMP Sgt. Clive Seabrook thanked the Coast Guard, RCMSAR, SSISAR and the public for their efforts to help locate the missing man.
“This is a tragic outcome,” said Seabrook, “and our thoughts are with the family at this difficult time.”
The search and recovery was only the second callout of the calendar year for SSISAR, according to Blazecka, with the first only days prior as they participated in a mutual aid search in Juan de Fuca over the previous weekend. But a third came right on its heels Sunday, July 16, as SSISAR members coordinated with Salt Spring Fire Rescue to bring an injured hiker down from a trail near the top of Mount Erskine.
That rescue involved two teams from SSISAR, who met firefighters near the summit and brought the hiker to a waiting ambulance at the trailhead, according to search manager Conrad Bowden.
Seabrook said Salt Spring RCMP are police are asking boaters ensure they possess basic safety items, which must include a manual bailer, a whistle and a fire extinguisher when applicable. Police also reminded the public to ensure their vessels are registered, in safe working order, and that boat operators possess a valid Pleasure Craft Operators Card.
“The registration and card are often overlooked,” said Seabrook, “but the process of obtaining these things provides an educational component that helps to keep people safe. And above all else, wear your lifejacket.”