Thomas Dennis (second from left) is seen in this undated photograph with some of his grandchildren. (Facebook photo)

Thomas Dennis (second from left) is seen in this undated photograph with some of his grandchildren. (Facebook photo)

Search suspended for Indigenous elder last seen mushroom picking in northwest B.C.

Mushroom picker Thomas (Tommy) Dennis has been missing since Sept. 16

The past few days have been a blur for the youngest daughter of Thomas (Tommy) Dennis, after her dad vanished after going mushroom picking near Kitwanga nearly two weeks ago.

“I’m going to hold on hope until I find out otherwise,” Marilyn Morrison said Monday afternoon (Sept. 28).

“I mean, I never, ever want to think anything bad has happened to my dad. There’s some things you can’t control or see coming, but I’m just holding on.”

Despite extensive search efforts by RCMP and Search and Rescue (SAR), there has been no trace of Dennis, 79, who was last seen by another mushroom picker at 12:30 p.m. near the Price Creek Forest Service Road on Sept. 16.

North District RCMP media relations officer Cpl. Madonna Saunderson confirmed search efforts were suspended by police and SAR on Sept. 27, but the family and local civilian search teams continue to comb the area east of Price Creek (Gitwangak) south of Hwy 16.

Morrison said her dad, a relative beginner in terms of mushroom picking, took up the activity to assist in complementing his pension and pay bills.

Read More: Searchers release photo of what Tommy Dennis was wearing when he went missing last week

Over the course of the last two weeks, Saunderson said RCMP including Police Dog Services and Air Services along with SAR and local community members conducted extensive ground and air searches with negative results.

“Upwards of 25 to 30 SAR volunteers, and other independent searchers were involved on any given day,” Saunderson told Black Press Media.

“Representatives from Gitwangak, and various other local First Nation communities supported the search. Variable specialties from SAR including trackers, swift water rescue, and a private drone operator also supported in the search.”

Terrace SAR search manager, David Jephson said their members were on the ground for at least seven days assisting other SAR teams from across northern B.C. including Houston, Prince Rupert, Smithers, Burns Lake and Prince George.

Jephson said the large community presence had also brought its own initial challenges, adding that early in the search RCMP were using a helicopter equipped for thermal imaging.

“When you have all those random people walking in the forest it’s pretty tough to find who you are looking for and to rule stuff out…” he said.

Read More: Witset now reporting 14 cases of COVID-19, remains in lockdown

Dennis, who is believed to have difficulty hearing, was last seen wearing blue jeans, black cap, rubber boots and a grey checked sweater.

New Hazelton RCMP said he was not prepared to be out overnight and does not have any food or provisions, and was only wearing lightweight clothing.

Firewood and tents have been donated for a search camp, which has been erected near the Price Creek Forest Service Road, as civilians continue search efforts.

“It blows me away the caring that people have and the willingness to give just out of the kindness of their hearts,” Morrison said.


Do you have a comment about this story? email:
rebecca.dyok@wltribune.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

First Nationsmissing person

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

University of Victoria rowing coach Barney Williams is photographed in the stands during the Greater Victoria Invitational at CARSA Performance Gym at the University of Victoria in Victoria, B.C., on Friday, November 29, 2019. The University of Victoria says Williams has resigned effective immediately. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito)
University of Victoria women’s rowing coach resigns by mutual agreement

Lawsuit filed last summer accused Barney Williams of verbal abuse

Darrel McLeod won the Governor General’s Literary Award for Non-Fiction in 2018 for his first book, Mamaskatch: A Cree Coming of Age. His newly-released memoir, Peyakow: Reclaiming Cree Dignity, follows as a sequel. (Black Press Media file)
Critically acclaimed Sooke author releases new memoir

Peyakow follows as a sequel to Darrel McLeod’s first book, Mamaskatch: A Cree Coming of Age

Downed trees account for the majority of power outages, according to BC Hydro, which plans to spend more money on tree pruning and hazardous tree removal in coming years in the face of changing weather and growing patterns caused by climate change. (Photo courtesy of the City of Langford)
BC Hydro says safety guides tree removal policy

Crown corporation says it will work with property owners wherever possible

(Photo by Mojpe/Pixabay)
Canadian kids extracting record amount from Tooth Fairy

Our neighbours in the U.S. receive slightly less from Tooth Fairy visits

FILE – NDP Leader John Horgan, right, and local candidate Mike Farnworth greet one another with an elbow bump during a campaign stop in Coquitlam, B.C., on Friday, September 25, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. won’t be using random individual road stops to enforce travel rules: Safety Minister

Minister Mike Farnworth says travel checks only being considered at major highway junctions, ferry ports

FILE – Health-care workers wave to people clapping and yelling thank you to the frontline workers during the 7 p.m.-tribute outside the Lions Gate Hospital in North Vancouver, B.C. Wednesday, April 8, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. nurses issue plea for all to follow health orders as hospitalizations spike

Nurses worried about strain COVID-19 is having on hospital capacity, care

Former B.C. premier Christy Clark. (Black Press Media files)
Former B.C. premier to testify at money laundering hearing today

Attorney General David Eby has been added to the witness list as well

Selina Robinson is shown in Coquitlam, B.C., on Friday November 17, 2017. British Columbia’s finance minister says her professional training as a family therapist helped her develop the New Democrat government’s first budget during the COVID-19 pandemic, which she will table Tuesday. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. to table budget that’s expected to deal with COVID-19 pandemic and beyond

Robinson released a fiscal update last December that said the impact of the pandemic on B.C.’s economy was uncertain

Families of two of three workers killed in a train derailment near Field, B.C., in 2019 have filed lawsuits accusing Canadian Pacific of gross negligence. The derailment sent 99 grain cars and two locomotives off the tracks. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Families of workers killed in Field train derailment allege negligence in lawsuit

Lawsuits allege the workers weren’t provided a safe work environment

(New Westminster Police)
4 youth arrested after 30-person brawl in New Westminster leaves 1 seriously injured

Police are looking for witnesses who saw the incident take place

South Surrey’s Paul Cottrell, who works with the DFO, tows a grey whale out of Semiahmoo Bay Sunday. (Contributed photo)
Dead whale floating near White Rock towed to shore for necropsy

Animal has been dead since at least April 15

Wickaninnish (Clifford Atleo) plays the drum while singing the Nuu-chah-nulth song on the court steps in Vancouver In a picture from April 2018. Photo credit, Melody Charlie.
Five western Vancouver Island First Nations celebrate legal fishing victory

Court ruling confirms Nuu-chah-nulth fishing rights in case dating back to 2003

Most Read