MONTREAL — As firefighters, an ice rescue unit and police on all-terrain vehicles and horseback trudged through fresh-fallen snow in their search for a missing Montreal boy Wednesday, his father held out hope he will come home safely.
"I'm talking and thinking about those people I don't know and who are here to help us, so I have hope, I have hope," Frederic Kouakou told reporters at a police command post set up to help find Ariel Jeffrey Kouakou, 10.
"My son (will) come back. I have that feeling."
The search was centred on a park and riverbank near where the boy was last seen Monday afternoon after telling family he was heading to a friend's house.
Montreal police spokesman Jean-Pierre Brabant said officers from nearby communities as well as a canine unit were assisting in the search, and police were also assessing whether to send divers into the river.
"There's an evaluation that was done by our SWAT team to know if there's a dive that could be done later today, but we're still evaluating for now because we don't have any target space where we could do some searches," Brabant said.
Believes son was heading in the right direction
But Kouakou said he didn't believe his son would have gone to the river because the family never went there.
He said a security camera at a nearby garage had captured his son's image, leading to believe the boy had been heading to visit his friend as planned.
"He was walking to the place he was supposed to go," he said.
Police said they received about 70 tips after triggering an Amber Alert on Tuesday afternoon, including a piece of information from a woman who said she saw someone matching the boy's description at about 2 p.m. on Monday at a park not far from his home.
Deeming that piece of information credible, police officers and firefighters focused Wednesday's search on the vast greenspace bordering the Riviere des Prairies river.
"In these types of investigations, we have to be sure that we didn't overlook anything," Insp. Andre Durocher said in an interview.
"Any possible trail, maybe a piece of clothing, maybe a footprint, anything — that's what we're trying to find."
Neighbours helped search
Meanwhile, friends and concerned neighbours canvassed the neighbourhood in small groups in the hopes of finding him.
Issiaka Samassi, who knows the boy's father, said he joined the search in response to a call from the local Ivorian association.
He said searchers were very worried, but still hopeful the boy would be found safe.
"It's already been two to three days, and (it's harder) with the snow, but we still have hopes of finding him," Samassi said in an interview.
"We hope to find him at someone's place, that someone took him in and will come forward."
A police cruiser was parked outside the parents' house in the event Kouakou came home on his own.
Amber Alert lifted
Police said while the disappearance didn't meet the criteria for an Amber Alert, they decided to issue one given Kouakou's age, the cold weather in Montreal and the fact he has no history of running away.
They said they lifted the Amber Alert late Tuesday night because the criteria to maintain it was no longer being met.
Durocher said police decided to use the alert to help spark the missing person investigation and find the woman who saw someone matching the boy's description.
He added there was no reason to maintain the alert because there was no indication Kouakou had been abducted or that his life was in danger.
Police say the boy, who is French-speaking, is black, has black hair and black eyes and was wearing a black coat with a hood, grey pants and yellow shoes before he disappeared.
Local residents were told to remain vigilant and to keep an eye on any places a young boy may hide from the wintry weather hitting Montreal on Wednesday.
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