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Irishman who drowned in B.C. remembered as 'friendly, positive guy'

What was supposed to be a fun jaunt through the Rockies for a group of new Irish immigrants to Canada has been halted by tragedy.

David Gavin, 26, of Castlebar, County Mayo, drowned Friday after jumping off a bridge over Beaver Creek, which flows into Kinbasket Lake near Golden. After four days, the official search has now been called off.

Gavin had moved to Vancouver from Ireland earlier this year with his girlfriend, Ciara, on a two-year work visa. He had started working for Telus in April and as an avid Gaelic football player in his homeland, had joined the Irish Sporting and Social Club of Vancouver. He was even already helping to run the team.

He was on his way to Calgary with some teammates for a weekend tournament when they stopped for a Friday afternoon dip in the water near the Kinbasket Lake Resort.

The president of the club, Tadhg Egen, said it was “a very sad, very sad situation.”

Gavin was “an unbelievably nice guy,” he said. “Such a friendly, positive guy. He’s a credit to his family.”

He’d encouraged Gavin and the other new recruits to do the drive to Calgary because he knew how beautiful they would find it.

“This was supposed to be his big Canadian adventure,” he said.

According to Egen, Gavin was “top sportsman” back home and a strong swimmer.

Just north of the resort is a high bridge that runs the mouth of fast-flowing Beaver Creek. There are no signs around telling people not to jump.

Rick Chartraw, owner of the resort, says he sees people jumping off the bridge from time to time.

“They’ll ask if it’s safe and I say, ‘Nah, you shouldn’t do that,’ ” he said Tuesday over the phone. “But they don’t listen.”

He wasn’t around Friday when Gavin and his friends were about, otherwise he’d have advised them the same.

According to Egen, Gavin jumped from the bridge into the icy-cold glacial water, not thinking there would be any danger.

“He did surface, indicated he was OK, took a couple strokes, but then went under.”

His friends quickly scrambled to try to help, but couldn’t spot him. The water there is “very grimy,” Egen said.

Golden RCMP were called for help. An initial search Friday involved two boats and a dog. The RCMP were eventually joined by Golden Search and Rescue, and the search of the shoreline, the creek and nearby Kinbasket Lake continued on into Saturday.

According to a media release from the Mounties, the B.C. RCMP’s underwater recovery team arrived Saturday and began “a variety of underwater and surface scans.” Flyovers of the lake were also conducted. The RCMP has now called off the search for Gavin.

“Unfortunately at this stage police are presuming that the missing man has drowned,” Staff Sgt. Annie Linteau, spokeswoman for the RCMP in B.C., said in an email. “We have requested that our Air Services unit conduct periodic flyovers of the area throughout the summer, in the hopes that he will be located soon.”

Egen said that it was a reminder that “water’s very dangerous, there can be strong currents just beneath, be careful.”

“Know the dangers of water, learn from this. We don’t want to this to happen to other people,” he added. “They probably didn’t fully understand the conditions under him.”

The club has set up a GoFundMe page to help support Gavin’s family and also to pay for a private search of the area in the hopes of quickly finding his body.

“So far it’s had a great response,” he said of the fundraiser, which has set a target of $125,000 for now. (As of 3 p.m. on Tuesday, more than $70,000 had already been raised.)

Paying for a private search with divers or helicopters is “serious money,” he said.

Gavin’s family arrived from Ireland on Sunday, along with Ciara and her family.

“The idea was to find him and bring him home with that money,” Egan said. “There’s six family members who have come over. We’d like to send him home with them, cover whatever costs they’ve incurred for flights, cars, food.”

The family is now staying at the resort.

“The people at the resort have been very good.”

On top of his hope that people will take a lesson about water safety from the tragedy, Egan also hoped local boaters and fishermen will keep their eyes out for Gavin in the coming days.

“It’s such a huge area, we need people to keep their eyes open,” he said. “The only way to search is from above. The terrain is very difficult. It’s too dangerous to walk the foreshore.”

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