MISHKEEGOGAMING – A small group of Canadian Rangers from Pickle Lake and Mishkeegogamang First Nation played a key role in the search for Charnelle Masakeyash, which was conducted in the bush and waters between the two communities.
The search was discontinued on Thursday after it failed to find any evidence of her and witnesses were found who indicated she may have left the area by vehicle.
“The Rangers did a fine professional job,” said Sergeant Jamie Stirling, provincial search and rescue coordinator for the Ontario Provincial Police, which led the massive search for Masakeyash over seven days. “The Rangers are very good at what they do and we appreciate their help.”
The search involved many OPP officers, including members of the OPPs Northwest Region Emergency Response Team, the Rangers, and dozens of volunteers from Mishkeegogamang. An OPP plane and helicopter were also used in the search.
Most of the Rangers, many of whom have received professional search training, were teamed up with members of the emergency response team.
The search was conducted in dense bush after Masakeyash was reported missing. A member of the Mishkeegogamang First Nation, the 26-year-old woman is a single mother with three young children. Prior to the search she was last seen on October 31 and reported missing on November 8.
Two of the Rangers involved in the search are related to her. One is an uncle and another is a cousin.
“A lot of the OPP said this was some of the worst terrain they’ve had to search, because of the muskeg,” said Master Corporal Mike Pelletier, a Ranger graduate of the OPP’s ground search and rescue course. “We went through muskeg and swamp. At the beginning the muskeg was partially frozen. You’d start off walking on top and then you’d sink down to your knees.
“It was exhausting but a good kind of exhaustion, because you knew you were there to help. The OPP guys from the ERT team were phenomenal. Their equipment is very good and they know what they are doing. This is what they do, day in and day out, and they are very good.”
The search was not a waste of time, said the OPP’s Sergeant Stirling. “It tells us where she is not. It is now a missing person case and will be followed up on on that basis. We have not given up on looking for her.”
“It’s terribly sad,” said Lieutenant-Colonel Matthew Richardson, commanding officer of the Canadian Rangers in Northern Ontario, “but it provides some closure. The OPP can now move their investigation in a different direction.
“We were glad to help but the large turnout of volunteers from Mishkeegogamang shows they also made every effort to do everything they could to help in the search.”
(Sergeant Peter Moon is the public affairs ranger for 3rd Canadian Ranger Patrol Group at Canadian Forces Base Borden.)