A family is left wading in the Columbia River searching for their missing son to provide closure to a tragedy.
Fruitvale’s Andrew Evans, 28, has been classified as a missing person but is also presumed drowned after a police chase resulted in him disappearing in the water last Wednesday.
The Kootenay Boundary Regional Fire/Rescue continues to patrol the Columbia and so does his dad Dobie Evans of Thrums, who is offering a $25,000 reward for his son’s body.
Meanwhile his mom Tammy Evans and his sister Alisha Evans of Castlegar view the incident as a mishap that could have been avoided.
The Kootenay Boundary Regional Detachment Crime Reduction Unit and members from the Trail and Greater District RCMP attended a home in Glenmerry to arrest Evans for several unendorsed arrest warrants for breach of conditions late that afternoon.
The operation went sideways when Evans jumped out of a second-storey window while the officers were still on the main floor. The perimeter officers were unable to intercept him and he ran through the property and into the river, according to Cpl. Dan Moskaluk, media relations for the South East District.
From the shoreline, officers watched as Evans swam back toward the shore, where he remained in the water holding onto a tree branch while he spoke to officers at the river’s edge.
The rescue boat was immediately dispatched but it was too late as Evans eventually let go of the branch and floated downstream until he reached a set of rapids known as Rock Island, where he disappeared from sight for a short period of time until he resurfaced only to be swept under again.
“If this is it, I just want people to know the truth of him,” Alisha told the Times. “He’s not who they’re making him out to be.”
Alicia and Tammy aren’t making excuses for Andrew’s run-in with the law but do understand the frustration and evils he dealt with in his life.
He would do just about anything to stay out of jail, including risking his life against the mighty river.
“Andrew had been suicidal and had several failed attempts of suicide and not the kind of suicide where you’re like ‘Oh, I’m cutting myself.’ It was like holding onto the brink of life and if we hadn’t found you, you’d be dead,” said Alisha. “They knew he had drug problems.
“You know his state of mind, you don’t have to ask, you can see it.”
She considers the outcome a dangerous pursuit that should have been aborted.
And wonders why the cops would chase him down to the water, only to address him from the shoreline. “If you’re going to chase him down to the river you damn well better jump in,” she added. “I mean you’re obviously pursuing him that much.”
His mom spoke to him just before the incident unfolded.
She regrets giving him tough love and not helping him before “petty” crime resulted in his reported death. But the worst part is not having closure, not being able to identify her son’s body.
“As far as I’m concerned they should have just shot him because at least we’d have a body,” she said.
“Had I known what I know right now, I would have given him money and told him to get on the bus and get out of town.”
Andrew’s mom found out about her presumed drowned son from her ex-mother-in-law that evening, a phone call she believes she should have received from the police.
“That’s not professional on the police’s behalf,” she said. “My son is gone and you’re going to let somebody else phone and tell me, who knew before me.”
There has been no time for grieving, according to the family. Because there is a chance Andrew could still be alive, police felt it was necessary to get a release out to the public immediately.
“With a case of this nature here, of course there is close consultation with the family. There was notification that was made the day of and then given, with the respect that we have a missing person, there would be some urgency as well to get the information out,” explained Moskaluk. “It could stand to reason that you might have him washed up but still alive, that he exited the river, there is a whole bunch of scenarios that could play out.”
The regional fire boat scoured the shoreline Monday and plan to do so again Wednesday and Friday this week.
Continuous efforts are being done to ensure with the fluctuation of the river that they didn’t miss anything before, explained Terry Martin, regional fire chief.
All agencies south of the border have been notified of the incident.
Andrew was last seen wearing a white shirt and green/blue shorts. He’s described as a white man, 5’8”, 135 pounds with dirty blonde hair and blue eyes.