Body in Bow identified

Foothills: Justin MacNeil confirmed dead

By: Tammy Rollie

  |  Posted: Wednesday, Jul 16, 2014 08:43 am

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A body found in the Bow River northeast of Okotoks earlier this month is Calgarian Justin MacNeil who went missing in June.

Fishermen on the Bow River reported seeing the body of a young man more than a kilometre downstream from where MacNeil was last seen on July 5. The Foothills and High River fire departments, as well as the High River RCMP, recovered the body in a muddy area of the river that evening.

Okotoks RCMP Cpl. Brent Bliss said dental records of MacNeil matched that of the man found in the river and his family was notified on July 10, including his adopted mother Cathy MacNeil, who returned to her Nova Scotia home that same day and his birth mother, who lives in Fort McMurray.

RCMP reported MacNeil was spending the day at Nature’s Hideaway Family Campground with friends northeast of Okotoks when he entered the fast-flowing Highwood River close to where it merges with the Bow River the early evening of June 22. MacNeil’s friends told RCMP he got caught in the current and was swept downstream.

“It sounds like alcohol was a factor in this, unfortunately,” said Bliss. “My understanding there was some alcohol being consumed.”

For almost two weeks, search and rescue crews looked for MacNeil as far as 10 kilometres downstream from where he entered the Highwood River. Their efforts were temporarily halted due to the high water levels and fast current caused by previous days of rain and debris from last year’s flood.

At the time of MacNeil’s disappearance, a high water advisory was in effect in the area.

Although river levels have since dropped with the warmer temperatures and drier climate, Bliss said people must still be careful around rivers and other bodies of water.

“I wouldn’t be going into the river without a lifejacket or some kind of floatation device,” he said. “People just need to take precautions and use common sense.”

The last drowning that took place in the foothills area was during the 2013 flood when 35-year-old Amber Rancourt was swept away in the raging Highwood River near Longview on June 20.


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