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

Vernon's spring leaf pickup program is underway. (File photo)
Vernon rakes up residents’ bagged leaves

Pickup this week, must be in clear plastic bags

Public input on the City of Enderby’s proposed 2021 budget is open until 3:30 p.m. Monday, April 19, 2021. (City of Enderby photo)
Enderby’s proposed 2021 budget open for public input

The proposed spending plan includes a 2.2 per cent tax increase; public input open until Monday

Coldstream students took over the Your Letters page in the April 9, 2021, edition of the Vernon Morning Star to offer advice to adults about COVID-19. Interior Health took notice and offered their praise. (Vernon Morning Star)
Coldstream students’ COVID advice praised by Interior Health

Grade 2 and 3 classes from Coldstream Elementary took over the Morning Star’s Letters page April 9

Members of the Okanagan Screen Arts Society received a cheque for $1,500 Thursday, April 15, 2021. The funds are to help the society’s efforts as they prepare take over operation of the Vernon Towne Cinema at the end of July. (Brendan Shykora - Morning Star)
Vernon dealership gives Towne Cinema a lift

Vernon Watkin Motor Ford, in business for more than 100 years, donated to the theatre with nearly as long a history

Interior Health’s overdose prevention site in Vernon is saving lives. (Jennifer Smith - Morning Star)
Vernon’s controversial overdose prevention site saving lives

Site sees fewer problems than expected, but some still want it moved

Flow Academy is located at 1511 Sutherland Avenue in Kelowna. (Michael Rodriguez - Capital News)
Black Press Media Weekly Roundup: Top headlines this week

Here’s a quick roundup of the stories that made headlines across the Okanagan, from April 11 to 16

Mervin Mascarenhas giving one of his pens to Honorary JP-MP. Premier David Burt of Bermuda. (Image: Mervin Mascarenhas)
Kelowna man who made $90K ‘Space Pen’ recognized by dignitaries, sheikhs

Mervin Mascarenhas is the first Canadian to grace the cover of Millennium Millionaire Magazine

The funeral of Britain’s Prince Philip in Windsor, England, on Saturday, April 17, 2021. Philip died April 9 at the age of 99. (Kirsty Wigglesworth/AP)
PHOTOS: Prince Philip laid to rest Saturday as sombre queen sits alone

The entire royal procession and funeral took place out of public view within the grounds of Windsor Castle

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix and Premier John Horgan describe vaccine rollout at the legislature, March 29, 2021. (B.C. government)
B.C. health minister says delay in Moderna vaccine ‘disappointing’

‘The sooner we get vaccines in people’s arms the better, and inconsistency in delivery is a consistent problem. This is simply a reality and not an issue of blame,’ Adrian Dix said Friday

(Police handout/Kamloops RCMP)
B.C. man dies in custody awaiting trial for Valentine’s Day robbery, kidnapping spree

Robert James Rennie, who was on the Kamloops RCMP’s most wanted list, passed away at the North Fraser Pretrial Centre in Coquitlam

Photos of Vancouver Canucks players are pictured outside the closed box office of Rogers Arena in downtown Vancouver Thursday, April 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Canucks games against Leafs postponed as team returns from COVID-19

The team has had 11 games postponed since an outbreak late last month

Old English design elements can be seen in the sign of the Summerland Farm and Garden Centre in 1993. The guidelines are no longer in place, but some downtown businesses still show aspects of the days when Summerland had a theme in place. This photo was taken by Summerland photographer Dan Dorotich. (Photo courtesy of the Summerland Museum)
Summerland’s Old English theme has been abandoned

From the 1980s until the early 2000s, Summerland had design guidelines in its downtown

Penticton bylaw officers tore down a “pretty significantly sized” homeless camp underneath the bridge near Riverside Drive Friday, April 16 morning. (Brennan Phillips - Western News)
Penticton bylaw tears down ‘significantly sized’ homeless camp under bridge

Many residents had made complaints about the camp before it was torn down

Danita Bilozaze and her daughter Dani in Comox. Photo by Karen McKinnon
Island woman makes historic name change for truth and reconciliation

Becomes first person in Canada to be issued new passport under the TRC Calls to Action

Most Read