POLITICS

Lodge owner reports damage after search for missing teens in Saskatchewan

11/11/2014 08:08 EST | Updated 01/11/2015 05:59 EST
SOUTHEND, Sask. - The owner of a remote Saskatchewan fishing lodge believed to be used by a group of missing teens while waiting for rescue says there is a lot of damage to clean up.

On Monday, searchers rescued four boys and one girl from an island on Reindeer Lake, returning them to their homes in Southend. The rescue followed an extensive search that launched when the teens, who are between 13 and 17 years old, failed to return on time from a moose-hunting trip last Thursday.

During the search, police said a private lodge was broken into and survival supplies were taken. Officers weren't able to confirm at the time that it was the missing teens who were there.

Kelly Littlechilds, owner of Arctic Lodges, said two workers evaluated his property this week and found that doors had been kicked in and fishing gear, clothing and all-terrain vehicles were out of place.

"As far as we know, there has definitely been some unnecessary damage," he said. "Obviously when you have a lodge on an island in the middle of nowhere it takes a lot of work to build that up to where we have it right now.

"If there is any damage up there, we look at it pretty seriously," he said. "It takes a lot of time, effort and money to not only haul everything up there and rebuild, but it's a labour of love."

The facility includes a main building and about 30 cabins. He said some of the buildings have food inside and they are left unlocked for anyone who might be lost.

"There's food and stuff like that so they didn't need to be in everything else that we had closed up, let alone drag things out and make a mess," he said.

"It looked like they'd been there for quite a few days."

Police did not immediately return calls Tuesday. On Monday, RCMP spokeswoman Mandy Maier said investigators were still collecting details on what happened while the teens were missing.

Messages relayed to the teens' families through community members were not returned Tuesday.

"When we found out the situation ... our first priority was (to) make sure these kids get home safe," Littlechilds said, adding that locals are wary of hunting so late in the year.

"If the lake freezes over, and it freezes over fast, there's no reason for them to be out hunting, especially young kids. If that was what they were doing, it was a bad decision by them."

Reindeer Lake is Saskatchewan's second-largest lake at more than 6,650 square kilometres and numerous islands and bays. The community of Southend is the end of Highway 102, which is the only road access to the lake.

— By Clare Clancy in Regina