Dramatic twist in desperate search for Canadian teen fugitives

The ongoing search for two teenage fugitives suspected of shooting dead Australian tourist Lucas Fowler and his US girlfriend Chynna Deese has taken another dramatic twist.

Police divers on Sunday (local time) began their search of the frigid waters of a Canadian river for the bodies of Bryer Schmegelsky, 18, and Kam McLeod, 19, in the latest move by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police to find the duo after they disappeared two weeks ago near Gillam, in northern Manitoba.

RCMP officers searching from a helicopter on Friday located a damaged aluminium rowboat on the shore of the Nelson River.

Police in Manitoba have found a damaged rowboat in their search for the teen fugitives. Source: RCMP Manitoba
Investigators believe the teens may have used the boat to escape Gillam. Source: RCMP Manitoba

The boat may have been damaged travelling through rapids on the river, raising the prospect Schmegelsky and McLeod were tossed out attempting a getaway.

The RCMP released a photo of the boat on Twitter.

“It had gone through some rapids and had been significantly damaged,” RCMP Inspector Leon Fiedler told The Globe and Mail.

Kam McLeod (left) and Bryer Schmesgelsky (right). Source: BCRCMP

“We’re going to search in the area around where we found this boat just to make sure that there is nobody attached to it, whether that is our subjects or anyone else for that matter.”

The boat was found about 70km north of Gillam and about 13km from where police believe the teens set fire to the grey Toyota RAV4 they were driving two weeks ago.

Inspector Fiedler said police had not yet located the rowboat’s owner.

There was no forensic evidence to gather from the boat.

Search grips Canada and rest of world

Despite unconfirmed sightings of the duo as far away as the neighbouring province of Ontario, the RCMP continues to search around Gillam.

Survival experts predict the teenagers would struggle to stay alive if they attempted to hide in the swampy, bug-infested wilderness around Gillam without shelter and equipment.

Lucas Fowler and Chynna Deese. Source: Facebook

The dive team is the latest attempt by the RCMP to bring closure to a manhunt that began more than 3000km away on July 14 in Canada’s western province of British Columbia.

The bodies of Mr Fowler, 23, from Sydney, and his North Carolina girlfriend Chynna Deese, 24, were found shot dead and left in a ditch on the side of a BC highway.

Four days later on another BC highway the teenagers allegedly murdered botanist Leonard Dyck and then drove 3000km east across Canada's north to Gillam.

Royal Canadian Air Force planes with infrared and other search technology failed to find the fugitives around Gillam.

Canada has been gripped by the nationwide manhunt.

The Ontario Provincial Police announced on Friday it had set up an investigative team to follow up on potential sightings of Schmegelsky and McLeod in their province.

The OPP received more than 30 tips in less than eight hours on Thursday.

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