Papermill Dam, a popular Port Alberni swimming hole, was closed to the public on a hot Aug. 25 as RCMP investigated the discovery of bones in the Somass River.
The discovery, which turned out to be animal bones, was made by a civilian diver, according to an RCMP statement.
“On August 25, 2022 divers from the RCMP underwater recovery team were tasked by the Port Alberni Detachment to enter the Somass River near Paper Mill Dam to investigate and recover bones that were located by a civilian diver,” stated the RCMP. “The Port Alberni RCMP, Tseshaht First Nation and the City of Port Alberni are asking that the public stay clear of the area around Paper Mill Dam on the Somass River.”
“The RCMP are closely working with the Tseshaht First Nation and the City of Port Alberni to ensure that the interests of all parties are taken into account,” continued the RCMP release.
In fact, both shores of the river at the location were closed to the public as the RCMP divers conducted their investigation.
“We are too early to determine if these bones are human or animal,” stated Constable Richard Johns in a release issued the morning of Aug. 25, “or if they have any relation to any historic or current investigations.”
But by the early afternoon police investigators, who were working closely with a forensic pathologist, determined that the bones were of animal origin.
Before human remains were ruled out, the announcement heightened tensions among some Alberni Valley residents. Amber Manthorne, 40, has been missing from her Great Central Lake home in Port Alberni since July 8, 2022.
Kristie St. Claire has been leading search efforts for her missing friend since early July.
“We are aware and waiting to hear from the police,” she wrote in a message to Ha-Shilth-Sa. “Tseshaht has the area in their care, and it makes me feel better in my heart to know how much they care, and no matter who it is, if it’s a person, their spirit will be carried in the hearts of Tseshaht and all of us to the other side.”
“The Port Alberni RCMP would like to thank the public for their understanding and cooperation during this investigation,” said RCMP spokesperson, Cst. Richard Johns in his last announcement on the matter.