After tragedy comes hope, how two stories of two missing persons cases became one.
On November 25, 2017 pilot Dominic Neron (Tammy’s brother & Kate’s brother in law) and his girlfriend Ashley Bourgeault were missing due to an assumed plane crash near Revelstoke, BC. For 9 days the military, RCMP and search and rescue searched as per protocol and just as quickly as it started, it was over due to probability of finding them alive. They ended their search and Dom and Ash became an inactive missing persons case with the RCMP. Life did not prepare Tammy and Kate for the next steps but they jumped in blind and scared but determined to find Dom and Ash, hitting the road early the next day to drive 8 hours to Revelstoke, BC. During this drive they brainstormed how to create their own search party and how to get started. When arriving to Revelstoke the community came together and rallied behind us. The support from strangers during such a vulnerable time was incredible. Their search lasted an exhausting 10 months of promising leads and false leads, trial and error, gathering resources and picking other pilots brains, a never ending “what if” scenario and on September 10, 2018 B.C Air Ambulance miraculously spotted the wreckage of Dom’s plane. Although they couldn’t physically bring them home, they did get answers, closure and could start the healing process. The search for Dom and Ash pushed them to create the Free Bird Project to help families create an organized plan on how to continue the search once authorities have closed theirs. There needs to be a hub of these resources in place and after 10 months of searching they felt they had to share their knowledge with other families who are going through the same thing.
And then came Heather and "Coco". Heather's son Ryan vanished after leaving a house party in Sun Peaks, B.C Saturday February 17th, 2018. He was a month shy of his 21st birthday.
Heather and her husband made the 9hr journey from their hometown of Beaumont Alberta to await word that their son had been found. They are still waiting.
Determined not to give up, they spent 4 1/2 months conducting ground searches, coordinating volunteers and gathering information and skills needed to effectively do search and rescue on their own. With the help of family friend and "searcher extraodinaire" Coco, they have searched through every season, in treacherous terrain and insurmountable odds to search for a boy that deserves to be found. With their experience, Heather and Coco have made it their mission to help other families navigate through similar circumstances.
It is through our combined loss that we have found each other. Though both searches, and circumstances were very different, we strongly believe that each of our expertise bring a new light to The Free Bird Project. By covering both aerial and ground knowledge and resources we feel it's a match made in heaven. We each went through our own tragedy that will have forever changed us. Free Bird is not just a project but a movement. It's a safe place where we provide the recipe book on how to pick up the pieces, be hopeful and not give up on your loved ones. Learn from our mistakes and resources. And through this project we share our vulnerability, expertise, strength and passion to forever change the way missing persons cases are handled. We will carry on Dominic and Ryan's legacy and pay it forward for all that we generously received during our own searches.