A Baltimore County couple are expected to return home today from the Canadian wilderness after an unsuccessful and costly attempt to recover their son's body from a remote mountain lake where officials say he drowned in a swimming accident.
Paul and Joan Davis of Cockeysville told friends and a British Columbia newspaper that they were forced to hire their own dive team after the Royal Canadian Mounted Police failed to provide adequate resources to the search for their son, Tommy Davis, a 21-year-old environmentalist who was trekking through the rugged Selkirk Mountains on his way to Alaska.
Joan Davis told the Vancouver Province, "What the RCMP were looking at was, 'Your son is dead, he's in the water, go home.'"
Police deny being insensitive or taking the drowning, which occurred July 15, lightly.
The couple had to borrow $15,000 to pay Can-Pro Divers of Kelowna, British Columbia, and are planning to take out a second mortgage on their home to repay the debt, Bonnie Raindrop, a close friend of the couple said yesterday.
"She is frantic now," she said, referring to Mrs. Davis.
Yesterday, RCMP officials said Tommy Davis had befriended a group of about 300 campers from the Rainbow Festival, a group of spiritual environmentalists, at their encampment on Lake Duncan.
On July 15, Davis removed his clothes and started to swim across the mile-wide lake. Once across, Davis told fellow campers, he was going to scale a towering ridge on the other shore.
"Witnesses told us he was about halfway across, swimming strongly, and that was the last time people saw him," said RCMP Cpl. Randy Koch.
Lake Duncan is a glacier-fed body of water about 40 miles long that is part of a reservoir system. A dam is downstream toward Kaslo, the nearest town.
"We truly feel for the family and we realize what they are going through," Koch said, responding to the family's criticism of RCMP search efforts.
"If we suspected foul play in this case, it would have been vastly different," said Koch. "We mounted an aerial search, we had dogs scour the shoreline. But our dive team leader said the lake is about 100 feet deep, and with so many unknowns, we would have been searching the lake for a month or more."
Authorities say several people have drowned at nearby Lake Kootenay in recent years and that their bodies have not been recovered.
Paul and Joan Davis could not be reached yesterday. Their friend Raindrop said Tommy Davis was a dedicated environmentalist who spent long periods in the woods and traveled through most of America's national parks.
The RCMP has ruled Davis "missing and presumed drowned."
The family has scheduled a memorial service for 11 a.m. Monday at Gramercy Bed and Breakfast, 1400 Greenspring Valley Road. It will be a heart-wrenching day, Raindrop said.
"That's when Tommy would have turned 22."
A fund has been established to help defray the cost of the family's search efforts. Contributions may be sent to Provident Bank, 1005 York Road, Towson 21204.