Re-printed story by Bryce Forbes and Tanya Foubert, Calgary Herald
CALGARY — A Canmore teenager whose life revolved around kayaking is presumed dead after going over a waterfall on the Cheakamus River in B.C. and not resurfacing.
Identified as Peter Thompson, 19, he was a master on the river, acting as the head coach for the Bow Valley Kayak Club, teaching the sport to kids with disabilities, and paddling all over the world.
Rob McIntyre, president of the club, said Thompson was with a group of friends Friday at a six-metre waterfall in B.C. he had done many times before.
He went over and never resurfaced. Two friends reported him missing.
RCMP called in search-and-rescue and dive teams, but after two days, the search has been called off.
“We called out Search and Rescue and have not located him or his kayak yet, but we did locate the paddle,” said Sgt. Rob Knapton of the Whistler RCMP.
The RCMP dive team was in the area to evaluate the scene on Saturday. Knapton said the biggest issue with the recovery effort is safety for the rescue workers because of the hydraulic pressure of the waterfall on the Cheakamus River.
“We are looking at our options,” he said.
McIntyre said Thompson always preached safety to his students, but tragedies happen.
“You can prepare, you can do everything right and bad things happen,” he said. “It’s an inherit risk with the sport, especially at the elite level that Peter paddles.”
Born and raised in Canmore, Thompson’s life focused on the mountains: kayaking during the summer and skiing during the winter.
He had paddled elite level rivers in Africa, the United States and all over Canada, winning numerous awards and sponsored by a number of kayaking companies.
This summer, he took on the role of head coach for the Bow Valley Kayak Club, often spending more than 60 hours a week spreading his love of the sport to local kids.
As well, he helped develop the adaptive kayaking program run through the club. Kids with disabilities would be outfitted with specially designed kayaks for the river.
“We have a tonne of young kids come through who just idolize him,” McIntyre said. “This is going to shock them.
“He just inspired so many young kids and his work with the adaptive kids was amazing.”
One of the highlights for Thompson was the 30-metre (100-foot) drop at the Ram Falls near Nordegg that he talked about in his blog.
“Once I got to a certain point I knew there was no turning back and I recall saying to myself ‘there is no turning back now better enjoy it,’ ” he wrote in an Aug. 17 post. “
The free fall was awesome, the impact was super soft. I had a good line and came out at the bottom smiling. The boys both had good lines and we were all stoked to have fired up a drop like that.”