Missing woman’s dad fundraises for drones in bid to help others
John Simpson is determined to use the novel experience he gained in a troubling search for his daughter to help others who have lost loved ones.
Ashley Simpson went missing in Salmon Arm in April 2016, and this spring her father travelled there from Ontario for a second time.
He believed her body might be along the banks of a river or creek.
The area had been flooded and it was too dangerous to search on foot, but Simpson had an idea. He told friends he wanted to borrow a drone, and was put in touch with a surprisingly young expert — a 14-yearold boy with a fleet of drones and a strong commitment to his hobby.
“It really got me thinking,” said Simpson in a recent phone interview from his home in Niagara-onthe-Lake, Ont.
“Watching this young man, and his drone … He can go thousands of feet in the air and he can hover just three or four inches off the ground. If it was going to come to an obstacle, it would stop. … It’s absolutely amazing.”
Simpson hired the boy to search the mouth of the Salmon River where it flows into Shuswap Lake. Although his daughter wasn’t found, Simpson was resolved to get more drones into the hands of volunteer crews searching for missing people.
Since Ashley Simpson went missing last year at age 32, her family in Ontario has held an annual barbecue to fundraise for women’s shelters. This year, they added a golf tournament and her father used the proceeds to purchase four inexpensive drones, two of which he sent to a missing-women’s advocate in B.C.
RCMP wrapped up a wide-scale search of a Salmon Arm farm last week.
Cpl. Dan Moskaluk said human remains found at the property were confirmed to belong to one person, 18-year-old Traci Genereaux. Her death is being treated as suspicious but no charges have been laid.
At least four other women, including Simpson, remain missing in the region.
Jody Leon of the Splatsin First Nation in Enderby, near Salmon Arm, organized a search party for the women this spring that covered more than 100 kilometres.
Last week, she received the drones from Simpson and held a meeting for interested volunteers.
Leon said she’s connected with a number of experienced drone operators, including some with longer-range drones and another who will help volunteers get licensed under Transport Canada regulations. Their first drone search could be as soon as next week, she said.