By Keith McNeill
About a half-dozen members of the 100 Mile House Canadian Ranger Patrol spent about two days last week north of Clearwater joining the search for 31-year-old Jessie Lavallee.
Lavallee, who is from Saskatchwan, apparently fell into the Mad River north of Vavenby on Friday evening, May 11. She has not been seen since.
The unit, which is part of the 4th Canadian Ranger Patrol Group, arrived in the search area on Monday afternoon, May 14, and returned home on Wednesday, May 16.
The Canadian Rangers are a sub-component of the Canadian Armed Forces that provide a limited military presence in rural and remote areas of the nation.
They are separate from the regular and reserve forces.
According to a Lavallee family member, about 30 km of the riverbank had been searched as of the end of last week.
Despite the high water, divers had been in the river as well, searching high priority areas.
Police report they received a 911 call the evening of May 11 from a 36-year-old Regina man who reported that his girlfriend, also of Regina, had just fallen into the Mad River and been swept away.
Clearwater RCMP, Wells Gray Search and Rescue, BC Ambulance, and Victim Services all responded. An RCMP helicopter was also dispatched.
The two had been traveling back from Vancouver to Edmonton.
The male, a truck driver, dropped his load at a pull-out north of McMurphy Station Road and the pair drove back to the Mad River pull-out and went for a walk.
They found the old Highway 5 trestle bridge and climbed onto it. The female reportedly was traversing the crossbeams on the lower portion of the bridge when she slipped and fell approximately 30 feet into the Mad River running below.
She was quickly swept away into the nearby North Thompson River.
Police state that the investigation into this incident and the search for the missing woman are ongoing.
The old highway bridge across the Mad River is located a short distance upstream from the present highway bridge and the confluence with the North Thompson River.
Members of the missing woman’s family arrived in Clearwater on Sunday evening after an 18-hour drive from Saskatchewan.
They said they were unhappy that it took about 22.5 hours for police to inform them of the incident.
According to her mother, Leona Lavallee, the missing woman is from the Piapot First Nation in Saskatchewan and has two sons, ages six and nine.
She said that she was told that the river won’t go down until the end of June. She expected the search to last that long, or even longer.
“We’re not leaving until we find my baby,” the woman’s mother said. “We have too many unanswered questions.”
The missing woman’s sister, Terri Lavallee, described Jessie Lavallee as “… just one of those beautiful people who is full of love and is loved. She would do nothing that would hurt her children.”