News / Edmonton

'They're out there': Families of missing couple determined to keep searching

The families of Dominic Neron and Ashley Bourgeault are launching their own search effort in Revelstoke, B.C.

Dominic Neron and Ashley Bourgeault

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Dominic Neron and Ashley Bourgeault

It’s been more than ten days since the plane Dominic Neron and Ashley Bourgeault were on went missing, but the Edmonton couple’s families are not giving up hope.

28-year-old pilot Neron and his passenger, 31-year-old Bourgeault, were last heard from after their single-engine aircraft vanished on a flight from Penticton, B.C. to Edmonton on Nov. 25.

The Joint Rescue Co-ordination Centre in Victoria said they were suspending the search and rescue operation as of Monday afternoon, when it would be transferred to the RCMP as a missing persons file.

But now the families of Neron and Bourgeault are launching a search on their own in the area the plane was last detected. According to the rescue centre, radar and cellphone tower information narrowed their search to 18 kilometres out of Revelstoke, B.C.

Bourgeault's sister, Samantha McClellan, said part of the reason they're launching their own search is because there has been a break from bad weather conditions.

“The weather’s so unpredictable in that region, it was bad all week, and now we’re getting a break from the weather and they’re not going to look … it’s just disappointing,” she said.

The rescue centre says aircraft with the Royal Canadian Air Force and Parks Canada have spent about 120 hours in challenging conditions covering a search area of more than 22,000 square kilometres.

McClellan said she’s retaining hope because her sister was “strong, determined and stubborn”.

“We know Ashley would keep looking for her loved ones, so it’s just not acceptable to us. (to give up),” she said. “We’re not willing to say ‘oh well they’re giving up, so we’re moving on’.”

She believes there’s a good chance the couple had a survival kit with them, and according to her, the flight pattern showed they were flying from Penticton to Revelstoke between 3:30 and 4:30 p.m.

“But their cellphone pinged off a tower at 10:30. So that just tells me they’re out there,” McLellan said.

The couple had known each other since high school, and after having their relationship blossom into something more serious, were recently making plans to take a trip to the Dominican Republic.

McLellan said Bourgeault, a mother of three, has a “zest for life” and recently accepted a job as an educational assistant.

“She was passionate about her children and her family. She was the type of person when she waked in a room, she turned people’s heads,” McLellan said. “She was extremely beautiful inside and out.”

Neron, meanwhile had taken on an active role with Bourgeault’s children, going “above and beyond”.

“The kids called him ‘the man’, they really adored him,” McLellan said.

The ordeal has been hard on all of Bourgeault’s children, who are aged 9, 5 and 4. And while it’s been hardest on the oldest, Hailey, she has shown the same traits as her mother.

“She’s strong and resilient like her mom. And at the end of the day no matter what we have a strong family foundation,” McLellan said.

The family is pleading with anyone with knowledge of the Revelstoke area to get involved with the search effort, including skiiers, members of snowmobile clubs, hikers, people that map the area, and motorists who travel between Highway 1 and 6.

“There’s three babies here at home for Ashley to take care of. And there’s people here willing to put their own life on the line so that these children don’t have to live without their mom or go on not knowing where their mom is,” McLellan said.

Anyone who wants to get involved with the search or who has information that can help locate the plane is asked to contact Richard Bourgeault at 587-989-2222.

~With files from THE CANADIAN PRESS

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