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UPDATE: Search continues by boat, underwater to find Cultus Lake drowning victim

‘We know that you will not rest until you have answers,’ RCMP tells family of Ajay Singh
Boat patrols in a vessel similar this have been searching for a drowning victim at Cultus Lake who was reported missing on July 20, 2023. (Twitter/UFVRD)

Search efforts continued Monday by RCMP to find Surrey resident Ajay Singh, who is presumed drowned at Cultus Lake.

Boat patrols by seasonal policing members of the RCMP were to be conducted on Monday (July 24) and underwater divers will be on-site Tuesday.

“Our thoughts and prayers go out to Ajay’s family and friends during this extremely difficult time,” says RCMP Sgt. Krista Vrolyk, media spokesperson for the Chilliwack RCMP.

Since the incident last Wednesday, Ajay’s friends were having an extremely tough time of it, according to friend Joban Preet, who contacted The Chilliwack Progress to state that Singh could in fact swim, contrary to some early reports.

Preet was one of group of three friends who gathered by the water at Cultus Lake Friday (July 21), putting up posters titled, ‘Justice for Ajay!’ and asking for the search to be taken seriously. He said they were told they might have to wait until the body resurfaces.

“It is very upsetting,” he said.

The family had been at the lake Friday, he said, and had been hoping for a successful search.

Seasonal policing officers were expected to head out on the lake to conduct boat patrols Monday while the RCMP’s Underwater Recovery Team is expected to return Tuesday to resume dive efforts.

When Singh slipped under the water, he had reportedly been trying to rescue one of his friends, who he believed was drowning after falling off a tube.

It was initially reported from eye-witness accounts to police that Singh did not know how to swim himself despite jumping in. Since then it has been stated by his friends that he could in fact swim, and one of them said they have proof on video.

“The man went underwater and has yet to resurface,” according to the initial RCMP report.

There does seem to be some confusion over the man’s age. Singh was 22 years old according to B.C. driver’s licence information, police say, but his friends put out a poster on Friday that said he was 23 years old.

Witnesses on shore said they heard cries for help from friends, which alerted nearby boaters, jet skiers and swimmers who attempted to spot him. Two women who were with Singh were reported safe.

A nearby boater was alerted by the sounds of people in distress and he ran over to bring the others to safety before diving in the water himself in attempts to find Singh.

On the same evening it happened, the Cultus Lake Fire Department deployed a boat in order to search for Singh to no avail. Search and Rescue and a member of the RCMP’s Underwater Recovery Team attended to conduct a site assessment.

The RCMP Underwater Recovery Team, together with Search and Rescue and members of the Chilliwack RCMP’s Seasonal Policing Section began extensive and coordinated search efforts on Thursday morning, and through the weekend.

Sgt. Vrolyk wanted to reassure the family with these words.

“We know that you will not rest until you have answers,” the officer said in the news release. “It is important that you know that our file remains active and we will continue to dedicate resources in efforts to locate Ajay so that you have those answers.”

RELATED: Search at Cultus for man who dove in to save friend

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Jennifer Feinberg

About the Author: Jennifer Feinberg

I have been a Chilliwack Progress reporter for 20+ years, covering city hall, Indigenous, business, and climate change stories.
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