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RCMP finds missing family of 3 dead in Lac Ste. Anne County

A missing family of three have been found dead in Lac Ste. Anne County, Alta., according to Parkland RCMP.

The Pelsma family, 39-year-old Kelly, his 37-year-old wife Laura and eight-year-old son Dylan, were reported missing on Dec. 25. RCMP were informed that the family was overdue to attend a function. They were last seen two days before, on Dec. 23. 

The family had gone off-roading in the Lac Ste. Anne County on their side-by-side utility terrain vehicle, according to a news release from RCMP on Tuesday.

Their bodies were recovered in an area near the Alexis Bridge, off Range Road 40A at Lac Ste. Anne on Tuesday. Members of Parkland RCMP, Lac Ste. Anne County Fire Service and an underwater recovery team assisted in the effort.

Search divers in a lake
Divers looking for the bodies of the deceased (Craig Ryan/CBC)

The bodies were found in the water as well as on the shore, said Cpl. Patrick Lambert, public information officer with the RCMP. 

“Part of the dispatching of the underwater recovery team was for recovery of those [family members] that were submerged under the ice,” he said. 

Lambert said the family’s utility vehicle was also found. 

“The loss of this entire family is truly devastating over the holidays. Our thoughts are with the community and their extended family,” Lambert said.

Warm winter leads to hazardous conditions

Local resident Martin Junior Lavoie said environment conditions were not ideal, “The current is very bad, and in the winter, it never froze.”

Lavoie helped in the search for the Pelsmas. His neighbour had posted on Facebook that they’d seen the Pelsma family heading toward the Alexis Bridge. 

Lavoie left his house at 9:15 p.m. Monday and went in the same direction. 

Upon arriving, he saw a jerrycan floating on top of the water and called the RCMP. Edmonton Police sent an Air1 Helicopter with a spotlight to the area. 

“And they put the spotlight on the water and tried to look, but they didn’t find anything. But when they put the spotlight where the jerrycan was, we — me and another person — we saw the tail light and the plate flashing underwater.” 

Amanda Prysizney, a senior forecaster at Canadian Ice Service, said warm conditions during this year’s winter made ice thinner over southern Canada in general, which includes inland lakes.

She also said that prolonged periods of windy conditions made ice formation on such bodies of water uneven. The conditions resulted in thicker ice on one side of the lake, as it gets piled up and compressed, whereas other parts might have thinner ice or even open water.

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