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UPDATE: Recovery efforts continue for presumed drowning victim

“He was attempting to cross the river when he got into trouble … He was last seen struggling to stay on top of the water,” Savinkoff said. “He was just a good kid looking to enjoy the sun with some friends.”

Cochrane RCMP provided an update to the public on Wednesday (Aug. 17) stating Central Alberta Rescue Diving Society and Cochrane Search and Rescue were able to locate Blessing Paul, 16, deceased underwater. Cochrane RCMP continues to investigate.

SEEBE— The search continues for a 16-year-old Calgary teen who is presumed drowned near Seebe Dam.

Blessing Paul was last seen with friends swimming between Seebe and Horse Shoe Dam, said Cochrane RCMP Cpl. Troy Savinkoff.

“He was attempting to cross the river when he got into trouble … He was last seen struggling to stay on top of the water,” Savinkoff said. “He was just a good kid looking to enjoy the sun with some friends.”

The river can prove challenging for some swimmers when they face the force of the water and this has proven to be an issue in the Seebe Dam area.

Savinkoff added that the area where Paul went missing in the same location where two people drowned in 2014 and another person drowned in 2012.

Savinkoff said they first received reports of Paul going missing a helicopter and a Zodiac boat were immediately sent out as part of a rescue effort in the area. They were ultimately unsuccessful in finding Paul.

Initial efforts to locate the teen were conducted by Public Safety out of Canmore. Rescuers conducted a foot search on the banks of the area and in some treed areas.

On Sunday a dive team from Camrose, Alta. attended the area conducting an underwater search.

On Tuesday the family organized a search that brought in about 40 people to look for Paul. Cochrane Search and Rescue were on hand to help guide and maintain safety Cochrane Search and Rescue assisted providing 10 volunteers to help coordinate search efforts.

Since then they have transitioned to a recovery effort and Public Safety has sent a helicopter to check the banks.

A dive-team will be returning to the area on Thursday and patrols are being conducted with RCMP and Public Safety boats.

Savinkoff said cliff diving is a common sport on the river and in areas around Cochrane.

Seebe has had many issues with cliff divers, although the main issue has been trespassers accessing land owned by TransAlta and parts of the Stoney Nakoda First Nation to access the river.

He added that many recreators also trespass on the CP rail line to access popular spots on the river.

“The river although it looks really safe, it actually has a lot of eddies, a whirlpool in the water that can pull you down, the water is also extremely cold,” Savinkoff said. “It has a deceivingly high flow rate even though it looks fairly calm where these people are jumping.”

Savinkoff said if people do not have experience swimming in natural bodies of water they should not be considering swimming across a moving river because it presents some really big risks.

“If you don’t know what you’re doing it’s really, really dangerous,” Savinkoff said.

Cochrane RCMP has received numerous calls this year from the Seebe Dam area, most in regards to trespassing, Savinkoff said. Most of the calls have involved trying to assist security in keeping people out of the area. He added during the August long weekend RCMP saw an “extreme amount of people” try and access the property.

“Tensions were getting high. Security was trying to ask people to leave and they weren’t,” Savinkoff said. “This year due to COVID, due to the extremely hot weather it’s been a larger issue then what it has been in the past.”                                       

Savinkoff said the RCMP has already teamed up with TransAlta, Stoney Nakoda First Nation and CP Rail to explore possible ways to deter future trespassers on the private properties. They are hoping to take additional enforcement efforts to discourage the use of the area.

“We are strategizing on different enforcement efforts out here in the future which includes the ticketing and towing of vehicles,” Savinkoff said.


Chelsea Kemp

About the Author: Chelsea Kemp

Chelsea Kemp joined the Cochrane Eagle in 2020 as editor, bringing with her experience as a reporter and photojournalist. She writes about politics, health care, arts and entertainment and Indigenous stories.
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