The search for a missing Montreal boy moved into the frigid waters of a river on Monday as divers took turns plunging in the hope of finding clues in the disappearance of 10-year-old Ariel Jeffrey Kouakou.
It was the first day divers had entered the Riviere des Prairies since the boy left home March 12 and disappeared while walking to a friend’s house.
Montreal police Sgt. Manuel Couture said the divers were searching close to the shore and checking for places where a body might be stuck – but that it was a difficult task.
“There’s ice and snow that’s blocking the light, so the divers can see about three feet – not more – in front of them,” he said in an interview.
Couture also noted that because of the freezing waters, the divers’ vital signs were constantly being checked.
“We have to be in constant communication with them in order to make sure they are all right,” he added.
Couture said the divers could spend only about 35 minutes at a time in the river.
“When it’s freezing water like that it’s more demanding for the body so you have to breathe more often and it reduces the oxygen you have in your (air) bottle,” he said.
The police spokesman said there was nothing to lead investigators to believe Kouakou may have drowned in the river, stressing “it’s another part of the investigation.”
He noted that officers last week went door to door, searched backyards and used horses, the canine unit, all-terrain vehicles and a helicopter to comb the Ahuntsic-Cartierville neighbourhood where the boy was last seen.
Authorities will decide Tuesday morning what form the search will take and whether the divers will return.
Kouakou’s father has told reporters he’s convinced his son was abducted.
He has also asked police to reinstate the Amber Alert which was issued last Tuesday and withdrawn later that day.
But Couture says they are not there yet.
“It’s going to be all up to the investigators, he said.
“They’re working 24-7, they’re working real hard, looking at videotapes, they’ve talked to a lot of people and, right now, they’re with the divers and looking at all the possibilities.”
Police said they decided to lift the alert because the criteria to maintain it were no longer being met.
Meanwhile, authorities say they have received nearly 250 tips from the public since the boy disappeared.
Canadian boxer Adonis Stevenson is donating $15,000 to the boy’s family, who had already announced a $10,000 reward to anyone who helps find their son.