Search halted for night in Riverdale area for missing 65-year-old man

Nigel Armstrong NArmstrong@TheGuardian.pe.ca
Published on March 3, 2016

Search operations will resume at daylight tomorrow for Dr. Donald Stephens

A large-scale search for a missing man has come to an end for the day as darkness makes the wooded area around Riverdale unsafe, said the RCMP.

"Terrain out there is very icy, very steep and dangerous," said Cpl. Scott Stevenson, RCMP spokesman, just before 7 p.m. on Thursday.

Search operations will resume at daylight tomorrow for Dr. Donald Stephens, 65, of Stratford, he said.

Stephens, from Stratford, is an ultra-marathon runner who makes use of the "Plan-B" trails through the Strathgartney, Churchill and Riverdale areas to train.

He was last seen Wednesday around 8 a.m. at his home, said Stevenson.

"The difficulty that we are having is we don't know what time he left home (Wednesday) morning," said Stevenson. "He is known to be a very long distance runner so we don't know how far he ran."

"It's not unlike him to run three or four hours at a time, and that is the area that he likes to run in."

Stephens' truck was found on the Bolger Park Road, which extends from the Riverdale Road to the Green Road.

Stephens was not known to run at night. When he did not return home by 6 p.m. Wednesday, his family members became worried and they started to look themselves.

They called the RCMP about 10 p.m.

The RCMP police services dog, Dutch, and his handler, Cpl. Marc Periard, spent all night searching the area.

He took a rest about 9 a.m. Thursday, while a dog team came over from Moncton to help.

After a rest and feeding, Dutch went back out, so there were two RCMP dogs working the area later Thursday.

Joining the search Thursday were approximately 35 members of the volunteer P.E.I. Ground Search and Rescue team.

Also involved was one search-and-rescue helicopter from CFB Greenwood and a second helicopter, an army Griffon aircraft, that has been tasked to join the effort.

"They spent approximately eight hours searching the area from the air," said Stevenson.

He said the P.E.I. police dog and at least one helicopter should be able to resume the search Friday unless another incident calls them away.

Stephens is described as 5 feet 11 inches tall and weighing 180 lbs. He has brown, thinning hair and a slim build. He is known to be very fit, being a long distance runner. He is believed to be wearing a running jacket and insulated running pants.

Anyone who might have seen a man running in the Bonshaw-Riverdale area is asked to contact Queens District RCMP at 902-368-9300, said Stevenson.