By Steve Lambert, The Canadian Press
AUSTIN, Man. – The search for a toddler who disappeared while playing outside his rural Manitoba home is expanding to include bodies of water.
RCMP Sgt. Bert Paquet says underwater dive teams have been brought in to search creeks and shorelines, since most of the dry land around the property has been gone over.
“There is a lot of hope that … further examinations of bodies of water today will answer the one question we are trying to answer,” Paquet said Thursday.
Searchers remained hopeful, he said, but were mindful that more than 36 hours had passed since two-year-old Chase Martens vanished.
“Obviously we are talking about quite an amount of time in elements that are extremely challenging for a two-year-old boy,” Paquet said. “Knowing what we have dealt with before in similar circumstances, we have to be open to all possibilities.
“While we remain hopeful, we also have to keep in mind that the worst-case scenario is something that cannot be forgotten at this point.”
Chase was last seen by his parents about 6 p.m. on Tuesday playing in the yard at the family’s home near Austin. He was wearing a blue jacket, black splash pants, a red hat and boots that light up as he walks. He is described as being 2 1/2 feet tall and weighing 30 pounds. He has blue eyes and light-brown hair.
Paquet said foul play has not been ruled out, but is not the focus of the investigation.
“But again we need to keep in mind all possible avenues, all possible scenarios. We owe it to the family to keep open minds about what is happening.”
He said Chase’s parents are distraught and desperate as hundreds of people continue to look for their little boy.
No physical evidence has been found and police are still looking for any clues or tips that may help in the investigation, Paquet said.
“The entire country right now is thinking of this little boy. We are doing the same. If anyone has any kind of information that they question whether or not it should be shared with us, give us a call.”
More than 500 volunteers, trained searchers, police officers, firefighters and military members combed farmland in a 1.5-kilometre radius of the Martens home on Wednesday. The search area was doubling Thursday to three kilometres.
Some volunteers were called off overnight to get some rest, but were back by morning.
“I’ve got a three-year-old at home, so I couldn’t honestly imagine what the parents are going through,” said Michelle Richards, who along with her mother, Kim, came from Portage la Prairie to help.
“For him to just be gone, it’s terrifying.”
Trained personnel had continued to search after sunset Thursday. Temperatures dropped to -12 C the night Chase disappeared, but have crept up slightly since then.