MONTREAL — The Royal Canadian Air Force said Saturday it will gradually reduce its search operations for a missing Quebec businessman and his son before handing the case over to the provincial police.
Stephane Roy and his 14-year-old son Justin were reported missing on July 11 after failing to return home from a fishing trip in Lac de la Bidiere, a remote area in the upper Laurentians regions west of La Tuque, Que. The pair were aboard Roy's Robinson R44 helicopter.
Maj. Christian Labbe said air rescuers will fly over "high probability areas" Saturday looking for the pair and will do so again on Sunday before redeploying to their military bases across the country.
"There is always the possibility that we'll come back," he said in an interview. "Because we have a mandate, 365 days a year, for aerial search and rescue in Canada. So we're always on call and we're always available."
A statement from the air force said it will make the "difficult decision" to relinquish the case to the provincial police as a missing persons investigation.
Labbe said air force rescuers had been flying slowly and at low altitudes looking for the missing father and son, but a thick forest canopy and highly dangerous terrain hampered search efforts.
"It's very difficult with a search from the air to spot the search object — even though our crews are highly trained and very professional," he said. "So we think at this point the most reasonable strategy is to hand the case over the (provincial police) as a missing persons case."
Roy is the founder and owner of Les Serres Sagami Inc., which produces greenhouse-grown tomatoes and other produce under the Sagami and Savoura brands.
The initial search area was about was about 20,000 square kilometres, but rescuers used cellular data to narrow the search zone to about 2,200 square kilometres.
More than 90 people with the air force, the Canadian Coast Guard and other rescue services had been looking for the pair.