Still no sign of Luke Cooper

Sis­ter of miss­ing boater hopes oth­ers learn from her brother’s reck­less­ness

The Labradorian - - Front Page - BY THOM BARKER

The search for the re­mains of a boater who went miss­ing near North West River is on­go­ing.

Luke Cooper, 43, has not been seen since early morn­ing on July 15 when the ca­noe he was pad­dling cap­sized. A woman who was in the boat with him, but has not been named, man­aged to make it back to shore.

Sheila Cooper, Luke’s sis­ter, said as near as the fam­ily has been able to piece to­gether what hap­pened, a bunch of peo­ple were drink­ing at Luke’s house in North West River Satur­day night (July 14) and into the morn­ing Sun­day. Around 5 a.m. on the 15th, Luke and the un­named woman went out in the ca­noe.

Some­time af­ter that, an­other group of peo­ple hav­ing a camp­fire on the She­shat­shiu side of the river heard some­one yelling out, ‘Help me, help me, I’m cold,’” Sheila said, and they man­aged to con­tact 911.

At ap­prox­i­mately 6:30 a.m., RCMP in She­shat­shiu re­ceived a call there was a per­son in dis­tress in the wa­ter be­tween She­shat­shiu and North West River. They re­sponded, along with ground search and res­cue and a he­li­copter. On Mon­day, July 16, it was deemed to be a re­cov­ery rather than a res­cue mis­sion and po­lice brought in divers. On July 19, RCMP called off the of­fi­cial search.

Sheila Cooper talked to The Labradorian from the dock in North West River Tues­day af­ter­noon (July 17) while, she said, RCMP divers were search­ing for her brother’s body and peo­ple in lo­cal ves­sels were scour­ing the shore­lines. She said it has been an ex­cru­ci­at­ingly slow process for the fam­ily, but they are re­signed to the fact Luke is de­ceased.

“We kind of knew it was a re­cov­ery ef­fort right from the start,” she said, not­ing she be­lieved Luke had been drink­ing and went out in the boat with­out a life jacket.

“We know it’s the most stupid thing you can do and he’s pay­ing the ul­ti­mate price for it, his chil­dren are pay­ing the ul­ti­mate price.”

Luke has four chil­dren rang­ing in age from 29 to 11-years-old and three grand­chil­dren.

Sheila is im­plor­ing peo­ple to heed the les­son from the tragic cir­cum­stances by avoid­ing drink­ing and boat­ing and al­ways wear­ing a life jacket.

“What Luke did was wrong; he knew bet­ter,” she said. “I hope peo­ple learn from his ac­tions. That would be about the only good thing to come of it.”

She was also grate­ful for the com­mu­nity sup­port, not­ing North West River, She­shat­shiu and Happy Val­ley-Goose Bay have pulled to­gether since the search be­gan. Peo­ple from all the com­mu­ni­ties have been bring­ing out food and bev­er­ages for the searchers and try­ing to help in any way they can.

“It’s been re­ally good that way,” she said. “We re­ally ap­pre­ci­ate it.”

An on­line auc­tion has been set up to help raise money for the re­cov­ery ef­forts.

The fam­ily, with the sup­port of the com­mu­nity, has brought in their own divers and dogs to con­tinue the search.

PHOTO BY EVAN CAREEN

The search con­tin­ues.

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