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Coquitlam first responders searching for missing woman at Widgeon Falls

A woman was seen in distress while swimming at the site in "semi-treacherous" conditions, and now, RCMP and volunteers are forced to stand by until the water recedes.
Coquitlam and Ridge Meadows Search and Rescue (SAR) crews were called to a missing person's report after they were seen swimming near Widgeon Falls the night of July 13, 2022.

An investigation is ongoing after a woman, alleged around 50 years old, went missing near Widgeon Falls after she was last seen swimming in what were described as "semi-treacherous" waters.

Before 5 p.m. on Wednesday (July 13), Coquitlam Search and Rescue (SAR) crews were summoned by RCMP to find her as she appeared to be in distress.

Witnesses reported the incident to first responders that they tried to rescue her with a branch, but she went underwater and was never seen again.

And, as of this publication (July 14), she has yet to be found.

SAR volunteers from Coquitlam and Ridge Meadows used helicopters and other resources in a 90-minute search upon arrival, but failed to locate the missing woman and are now forced to wait.

According to SAR spokesperson Wendi Harder, who was the manager in charge last night, the extremely-high water levels are too dangerous for any one to conduct a search.

"The RCMP dive team or ourselves will not be going into investigate that pool more because of the risk to the searchers or to the divers. They couldn't see; they wouldn't even go in," she explains in an interview with the Tri-City News

"So at this moment it's on hold and RCMP is going to continue to do aerial searches a couple of times a day possibly looking for the subject."

Mounties spokesperson Const. Deanna Law confirms with the Tri-City News its air services are continuing daily searches of the area around Widgeon Falls.

She says conducting a physical search of the area is currently "impossible" until water levels either drop or slow down.

Widgeon Falls is the site of missing woman, Coquitlam SAR says, who responded to the rescue report on July 13, 2022, but were not able to find her. By Google Maps

Harder adds SAR volunteers may also go in the Widgeon Falls pool when the water recedes and if called upon.

"If the RCMP ask us to, we will go back up and be able to get into the water with underwater cameras into different areas just to see if we can find her.... We hope that we can find her and bring her home."

Ridge Meadows SAR crews were also called to help with the initial search and Talon Helicopters were used to take volunteers to Widgeon Falls.

Be safe in local waters

Harder encourages anyone to consider the safety risks of swimming in local rivers.

This is especially the case for those in the mountains as Harder explains there's still lots of snow melting into the local tributaries.

"Water can be relentless, especially with a current, and people need to realize that for places that they may have felt safe or may have even been safe swimming in July," she says in advising backcountry explorers to stay safe and think ahead.

"The creeks and rivers are going to remain high for the next potentially a couple of weeks. So just because they've swam somewhere before and it was safe, they need to evaluate it and see what the water level is."

Harder advises to stay away from unstable riverbanks when water levels are high, and to not let curiosity take over ther moment.

"Coquitlam RCMP wants to remind everyone that is heading out to enjoy the weather to be fully prepared for the terrain that they are going to be enjoying," adds Const. Law, noting no other information is being released at this time.

For more information on trip planning, especially for backcountry hiking, you're encouraged to visit Coquitlam SAR's website.

Widgeon falls is located roughly 20 km northeast of Coquitlam's downtown.

It's also roughly a three-kilometre walk on a forest service road from a campsite at the end of Quarry Road on the Coquitlam side of Pitt Lake.

Visitors typically travel on foot or by canoe up Widgeon Slough to see the popular landmark which has a pool at the bottom known as Hanging Creek.