Thomas Dennis (second from left) is seen in this undated photograph with some of his grandchildren. (Facebook photo)

Search suspended for Indigenous elder last seen mushroom picking in northwest B.C.

Mushroom picker Thomas (Tommy) Dennis has been missing since Sept. 16

The past few days have been a blur for the youngest daughter of Thomas (Tommy) Dennis, after her dad vanished after going mushroom picking near Kitwanga nearly two weeks ago.

“I’m going to hold on hope until I find out otherwise,” Marilyn Morrison said Monday afternoon (Sept. 28).

“I mean, I never, ever want to think anything bad has happened to my dad. There’s some things you can’t control or see coming, but I’m just holding on.”

Despite extensive search efforts by RCMP and Search and Rescue (SAR), there has been no trace of Dennis, 79, who was last seen by another mushroom picker at 12:30 p.m. near the Price Creek Forest Service Road on Sept. 16.

North District RCMP media relations officer Cpl. Madonna Saunderson confirmed search efforts were suspended by police and SAR on Sept. 27, but the family and local civilian search teams continue to comb the area east of Price Creek (Gitwangak) south of Hwy 16.

Morrison said her dad, a relative beginner in terms of mushroom picking, took up the activity to assist in complementing his pension and pay bills.

Read More: Searchers release photo of what Tommy Dennis was wearing when he went missing last week

Over the course of the last two weeks, Saunderson said RCMP including Police Dog Services and Air Services along with SAR and local community members conducted extensive ground and air searches with negative results.

“Upwards of 25 to 30 SAR volunteers, and other independent searchers were involved on any given day,” Saunderson told Black Press Media.

“Representatives from Gitwangak, and various other local First Nation communities supported the search. Variable specialties from SAR including trackers, swift water rescue, and a private drone operator also supported in the search.”

Terrace SAR search manager, David Jephson said their members were on the ground for at least seven days assisting other SAR teams from across northern B.C. including Houston, Prince Rupert, Smithers, Burns Lake and Prince George.

Jephson said the large community presence had also brought its own initial challenges, adding that early in the search RCMP were using a helicopter equipped for thermal imaging.

“When you have all those random people walking in the forest it’s pretty tough to find who you are looking for and to rule stuff out…” he said.

Read More: Witset now reporting 14 cases of COVID-19, remains in lockdown

Dennis, who is believed to have difficulty hearing, was last seen wearing blue jeans, black cap, rubber boots and a grey checked sweater.

New Hazelton RCMP said he was not prepared to be out overnight and does not have any food or provisions, and was only wearing lightweight clothing.

Firewood and tents have been donated for a search camp, which has been erected near the Price Creek Forest Service Road, as civilians continue search efforts.

“It blows me away the caring that people have and the willingness to give just out of the kindness of their hearts,” Morrison said.


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