Sask. family offers $100K reward for safe return of man who went missing on Weyakwin Lake

James Hamm says his family won’t stop searching until they have closure on his son’s disappearance.

“We’re not quitting with any of it until we find him or his body,” he said, speaking on the Weyakwin Lake dock where Matthew Hamm was last seen.

Six months after Matthew’s disappearance, his family is offering a $100,000 reward for his safe return.

Matthew, who was 24 years old at the time, went out on his boat on Sept. 23 around 6 p.m. to catch some fish for supper — something he regularly did after work at his family’s campground and septic business.

His mom, Helen, started worrying around half an hour later when he wasn’t answering his cellphone. The family started searching, but couldn’t locate Matthew, so they phoned RCMP to report him as missing.

The next morning, they found out that witnesses took a video of his boat running in circles, empty, at about 7:30 that same night.

“We found out later on that a text had gone through to his cellphone two and a half hours after his boat was seen empty, and we found out that the RCMP had gotten a ping off of his phone at 11:31 that evening,” said James.

“That’s a big part why the reward is out there. There is a chance that he is not in the lake.”

Helen describes her son as easy going. Matthew liked to fish, of course, and spent a lot of time playing video games with his friends or skidooing in the wintertime. Otherwise, he was working — in fact, he had agreed to take over his parents’ business.

“We just need to find him,” she said.

“It’s not easy going out later on, looking for a son that you don’t know where he is.”

RCMP say foul play is not suspected in Matthew’s disappearance and confirmed that his case is still open. Its underwater team will be searching the lake again when the ice melts.

RCMP are not associated with the family’s cash reward.

The Hutterian Emergency Aquatic Response Team (HEART) is another group that’s searched for Matthew. The team searched shortly after he went missing and a few weeks ago.

HEART doesn’t have any further plans on returning to Weyakwin Lake to search for Matthew, but said they would if their assistance is needed.

The non-profit’s sonar technician and remotely operated vehicle (ROV) pilot, Manuel Maendel, said the case is “quite puzzling.”

He said searchers have not been able to find Matthew’s missing fishing rod, either in the water or on shore.

“We’re certainly hoping for a resolution to this case. It would be really wonderful if Matthew could be found safe and alive, but all indications point to the water from our perspective,” he said.

“That boat video, it was pretty obvious that there was a tragic accident.”

In the summer, Maendel explained, he uses side scan sonar, which uses sound waves to translate images underneath the water to a screen on the boat. When he finds an area he wants to search in depth, he deploys an ROV, which has sonar, camera and a manipulator arm to recover any objects.

He said he reviews the footage afterwards as well, when he can zoom in on key areas, such as places that have rocks.

It’s important to know where the person left shore or the area they were last seen, he said – but in Matthew’s case, the last known location isn’t entirely clear. Maendel said HEART wasn’t able to georeference the video of Matthew’s boat to determine the exact coordinates of where it was found.

“That makes this search area so vast,” he said.

“It’s harder than a needle in a haystack.”