Calgary church members assist in search for teen presumed drowned in Bow River
CALGARY -- In the community of Seebe, about an hour's drive west of Calgary, 10 volunteers from Cochrane Search and Rescue and 40 members of the Redeemed Christian Church of God spent Tuesday looking for Blessing Paul.
The teen went missing downstream of the Seebe Dam on Saturday and is presumed drowned.
“Blessing was trying to cross the water here with some other people and got into trouble, as did another individual who ended up getting rescued,” said RCMP Cpl. Troy Savinkoff.
“Unfortunately Blessing was swept away in the water and was last seen struggling to stay afloat.”
Volunteers focused their search on the shores of the Bow River downstream of Seebe Lake, a popular cliff jumping area.
Blessing Paul. (RCMP handout)
Anthony Merah is a member of the church and Sunday school teacher. He taught Blessing when he was a 10-year-old and said the large gathering is to support his mom.
“It’s not just a question of the family, it is the church family,” said Merah. “He is a member of one family, we’re all one family as a church, so it’s something that bothers every single one of us.”
The group is holding out hope that Blessing made it to shore and is lost in the woods surrounding the river. The strong faith group is hoping for a miracle.
“You see the crowd here, a lot of people here probably didn’t have personal contact with him,” said Merah. “But he’s a wonderful kid is all I can say and that’s all I can say.”
There have been 12 suspected and confirmed drownings recorded in southern Alberta since June.
Carol Henke, public information officer for the Calgary Fire Department, says the aquatic team has been getting at least one call a day for people who are in trouble on the water this summer. She says many people are using Harvie Passage as a swimming hole, even though it's meant for kayakers, with fast flowing water and large rocks above and below the surface.
“There were reports of people swimming without life jackets, children without life jackets,” said Henke. “You can see how fast the current is, it just takes a second and someone is carried down and they’re at risk of drowning.”
Kelly Carter is the CEO of the Lifesaving Society of Alberta and Northwest Territories. It was founded in 1896 and its mission is to prevent drowning. He’s troubled by the 12 drowning incidents this summer.
“The toughest thing to realize I think is that drowning is also one of those preventable causes of death and we always say wear a life jacket when every you're in, on or around water,” said Carter.
“If you’re in a boat wear it at all times, if you’re not a good swimmer wear it at all times, and if you’re a child wear it at all times.”
Carter says while water is a necessity of life and great to recreate in and on, it demands respect.
“We have to remember that drowning is silent, you’re not going to hear screams and calls for help, you need to have eyes on the person, you need to be close by in order to respond,” he said.
Learn more about water safety online.