Out of the tragedy of the drowning deaths of two Langley boys last April, the Legacy Water Search and Rescue Society was formed. Now incorporated and just given a $10,000 donation, the group of volunteers are more motivated than ever to become fully operational by this year, to help bring closure to other families across the province.
The Legacy society has already been involved in two searches helping to bring closure to three families who lost loved ones in drownings.
The first search was for Syd Nevell, 35, presumed drown at Francois Lake, near Burns Lake last summer. The survivor of the Burns Lake mill explosion drowned when his boat overturned while fishing.
The local Legacy volunteers went out with Gene Ralston, the Idaho search and rescue expert who recovered the bodies of Brendan Wilson and Austin Kingsborough. While the volunteers from Langley were out looking for Nevell, they recovered a man's body who had drowned 29 years ago. They later found Nevell.
After that, the Legacy group was up in Squamish at Mamquem Falls, searching for a young man drowned after cliff jumping also this past summer.
The two search and recoveries has allowed for a lot of hands-on learning for the group of volunteers.
"And we have expanded our volunteer group. We have several people with specialized skills that wanted to add their expertise to the group," said Scott LeBus, founder and president of Legacy. Lebus is good friends with the Wilson family and was there for every agonizing day they searched for the boys on Nicola Lake in Merritt.
On April 21, 2013, bestfriends Brendan Wilson and Austin Kingsborough went up to the Wilson's family cabin for the weekend. When they didn't return on Sunday, the Wilsons asked neighbours to check up on the boys. Wilson's truck was still parked at the cabin but the canoe had been taken out on the lake.
It started a frantic search and soon the overturned boat and some of the boys' items were recovered. The shock of it started a movement by their friends called Pray for The Boys in Langley, with many fundraisers created by teenagers who knew them and wanted to help the families pay for the costs of bringing in an outside search and recovery expert.
Despite RCMP dive teams trying for nearly a week, the boys' bodies weren't found. That's when Lebus with the Wilsons called in recovery expert Ralston to come from Idaho. On May 6, the day he arrived at Nicola Lake, he used his special sonar equipment and found both boys near the family cabin in 75 feet of water.
Watching how hard it was for the Wilsons and Kinsborough family not to have their boys found prompted the action to create a search and recovery group here in B.C., said Lebus.
That way, Ralston woudn't have to come here every time there was a drowning. Ralston has recovered many bodies from waterways in B.C. over the years.
The RCMP dive team lack the expertise and equipment that the Ralstons have to search for victims in deep or muddy waters.
"We hope to have our own boat and sonar equipment in 2014," said Lebus. The intent is to buy the exact same sonar equipment, that can scan more than 100 feet below the water surface.
The Legacy group got their biggest boost last week when the Langley Kinsmen gave them $10,000.
"It took us about two years to raise that money," said Richard Parker, president of Langley Kinsmen. "It's a very worth cause. There is a need for such a group out here in B.C. And right now, there isn't such a group."
LeBus said they are so appreciative of the funds and "for taking a leadership role in supporting us."
The big cheque was presented to the Legacy group inside the George Preston Centre, right beside the trophy case of the ball hockey team both Wilson and Kingsborough were involved with. Kingsborough was supposed to go to the World's in the Czech Republic this year to play with the national ball team. In the trophy case is one of the Pray for The Boys T-shirts.
The Langley Kinsmen, of which there are only 13 members right now, are putting out a challenge to all other service clubs and businesses to try and match their donation.
"Wouldn't it be great, if we could get some more donations like this then we can be ready to go, to help families across the province," said Lebus.
The Society has regular board meetings and are organizing several fundraisers this year. The first will be a dance at Fernridge Hall on Feb. 15. To learn more or to donate go to legacywatersearch.com.