DNA brings clo­sure to fam­ily

Foren­sic cen­tre con­firms re­mains of St. Wil­liams man 40 years af­ter his death


DNA test­ing has brought clo­sure to a lo­cal woman and her fam­ily af­ter her hus­band dis­ap­peared in a lake in north­ern On­tario more than 40 years ago.

DNA test­ing this fall con­firmed that re­mains found on the shore of a north­ern lake in 2008 are those of Wayne Shank, 30, of St. Wil­liams.

Shank and sev­eral fam­ily mem­bers were fish­ing on Martin Lake near North Bay on Oct. 1, 1977, when the boat he was in cap­sized dur­ing a storm.

Shank and his fa­ther-in-law, the late James An­der­son, hung on to the over­turned boat for sev­eral hours be­fore Shank slipped be­neath the waves. A search for his body was un­suc­cess­ful and a death no­tice was pub­lished be­fore the end of the month.

“The boat was sink­ing and they had noth­ing to hang on to,” Shank’s widow Deb­bie Scott, of Booth’s Har­bour, said on Nov. 21. “It was night time. Peo­ple could hear them scream­ing but they couldn’t find them.

“He said to my dad `Tell Deb­bie and the kids that I love them.’ He went un­der and didn’t come back up.”

An­der­son was later res­cued. Mem­bers of the fish­ing party were in sep­a­rate boats, with An­der­son and Shank fish­ing to­gether.

Sev­eral un­cles and cousins had al­ready come ashore when they be­gan to worry about An­der­son and Shank.

The pair were in an alu­minum craft about 16 feet long. Au­thor­i­ties spec­u­lated that the boat had sprung a leak af­ter hit­ting a log or some other ob­ject in the wa­ter. Martin Lake, which is near North Bay, is more than 100 feet deep in places.

Clo­sure came a few months ago when Shank’s daugh­ter Tracy Resler, of Leth­bridge, Al­berta, was on a foren­sic web­site for miss­ing peo­ple in On­tario. The site had re­cently been up­dated with new in­for­ma­tion that in­cluded a swatch of green fab­ric.

Even though Tracy Shank was only seven when her fa­ther drowned, the fab­ric looked fa­mil­iar. She called Deb­bie Scott and said the fam­ily should look into it fur­ther.

Of­fi­cials at the Cen­tre for Foren­sic Sciences in Toronto took DNA sam­ples from Scott and her younger daugh­ter Tina Ru­pert, of Wind­sor. A test de­ter­mined that the torso re­cov­ered 10 years ago be­longed to Wayne Shank.

“It was a shocker,” said Scott, who re- mar­ried 37 years ago. “It’s sad and happy at the same time. At least now we have clo­sure. I’m still shook up about it. It’s like re-liv­ing the whole thing all over again.”

Shank was an em­ployee at the Amer­i­can Can in Sim­coe at the time of his death. He was a gen­eral labourer who served on the union ex­ec­u­tive. Ti­tles in­cluded pres­i­dent and past-pres­i­dent.

The fam­ily is mak­ing ar­range­ments to re­trieve his re­mains, which will be cre­mated.

A me­mo­rial ser­vice will be held in the new year.

Wayne Shank

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