‘Stomach in knots,’ says sister of missing Alberta man as search continues for plane near Wawa, Ont.

Monday marks the fourth day of search and rescue efforts for two missing men.  

John Fehr and Brian Slingerland first disappeared on Thursday evening after their plane vanished in the Wawa, Ont. area, near Sault Ste. Marie, Ont. 

The pair took off with the plane, which was purchased by Slingerland, from the township of Delhi in southern Ontario.

Mary Reimer, Fehr’s sister, said the pair’s intended destination was Marathon, Ont., which would have served as a stop on their way back to Alberta. Fehr was meant to co-pilot the aircraft. 

Reimer said her brother earned his pilot licence recently. She said he always loved the idea of flying. 

The heavy snowfall on the ground, up to five feet in some parts has made air search difficult.— Maj. Trevor Reid, Joint Rescue Co-ordination Centre 

“Stomach is all in knots. Everybody, including myself, is just anxiously waiting yet afraid of what we might get, you know, when the news does come,” Reimer said. 

“Just waiting. Just waiting and not knowing. That’s the hardest thing right now, is waiting and not knowing.” 

Reimer said when she spoke with Fehr’s wife Lisa earlier today, she had said that the family is “hanging onto hope.” The couple, Reimer said, share six children.

Maj. Trevor Reid is the Senior Public Affairs Officer with the Joint Rescue Co-ordination Centre in Trenton.

Reid said that about 85 people are part of the ground and air search and rescue operation through the Joint Rescue Co-Ordination Centre, Royal Canadian Airforce, OPP, Canadian Coast Guard and Civil Air Search and Rescue Association (CASARA). But weather conditions over the past several days have not been favourable. 

“The heavy snowfall on the ground, up to five feet in some parts has made air search difficult,” Reid said.  

“As well, the terrain in that general area is quite rough and it’s posing a challenge for some of our ground search and rescue partners.” 

Reid added that rescue teams are searching for an emergency locator transmitter (ELT) signal from the plane, but so far have not been successful. 

While the weather has posed difficulties, Reid said it has improved and he is hopeful that it will continue to hold as crews continue their search. 

‘There’s not a whole lot we can do’

Reimer said from her knowledge, her brother is not familiar with the terrain of northern Ontario, “I think he knew though that it was pretty much wilderness about that.” 

She said that so far, the moral and financial support has been incredible from both community members and strangers across the country. 

She said that five of her other brothers are preparing to join the search should it continue on.

“It makes us feel like we’re at least doing something,” she said, “It’s good to have people out there and willing to help, especially my own family,” she said.

“There’s not a whole lot we can do here. We’re praying. Praying a lot.” 

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