The body of Leslie Wetselaar was found more than three months after he drowned in the Columbia River.
Wetselaar, commonly known simply as Les, was found by some boaters on the shore of the Upper Arrow Lake on the afternoon of Saturday, Aug. 6.
He drowned on April 21 after being swept away by the current when he fell into the Columbia River while hanging out with some friends at the Centennial Park boat launch in Revelstoke.
The Revelstoke RCMP, Search & Rescue, and Fire Rescue Services began an extensive search of the river. A police boat and private boat set out onto the water while an RCMP helicopter was brought in to look from above. Teams walked the shoreline as far as the 12 Mile flats but after two days of searching, they were unable to find Wetselaar and the search was suspended.
On Saturday, Aug. 6, some boaters were planning to land on a beach three kilometres north of Shelter Bay Provincial Park. That’s when they saw what appeared to be a body.
They notified the RCMP, but due to the adverse weather and water conditions, police and the coroner were unable to reach the site that day. They returned Sunday morning, when they were able to recover the body.
Police said there was no foul play involved and the man appeared to have drowned. His identity was not revealed for another week, when the BC Coroners Service confirmed the victim was Les Wetselaar.
Wetselaar was 69. He was born in Lethbridge, Alta., and was given for adoption at the age of two. He struggled in school and worked various jobs across Canada before settling in Revelstoke.
He was well known in the community, with his scruffy beard and big glasses that framed a friendly smile. He was one of the town’s few true homeless people, sleeping where he could find a safe spot and panhandling to get by.
“He was a great guy,” his friend Nicole Salter told me a few days after Wetselaar drowned. “So friendly, loving, caring. He would do anything for you.”