EDMONTON -- Search and rescue crews have been unable to find the body of a 55-year-old man who fell through river ice in west Edmonton Tuesday.

It happened near the Buena Vista Park off-leash area just north of Laurier Park and the Edmonton Valley Zoo.

Witnesses said the man rushed out onto the North Saskatchewan River ice around 12:30 p.m. to help a stranger retrieve her dog.

“He made it to the dog, tried pulling the dog up. He was probably 50 feet out into open water and the dog struggled and the ice broke. The man got swept under, he popped up a couple times, that’s the last time we saw him,” Monica Ness told CTV News Edmonton at the scene.

“There was quite a bit current. It took him under and brought him quite a ways down the river. And then he went under again and I don’t think anyone saw him after that,” witness Tiffany Harris said.

Firefighters, police and STARS all assisted in the search.

Edmonton Fire Rescue Services dispatched six rescue boats and said the man was carried downstream towards the Groat Road Bridge.

The dog was rescued and treated, but firefighters called off their search for the man at 4 p.m.

Dog rescued

“On behalf of Edmonton Fire Rescue Services, our thoughts go out to the individual, their family and friends,” fire chief Joe Zatylny said in a statement.

“This is a tragic reminder of the dangers of the river and that it is never safe to go onto the river ice.”

Police briefly closed Laurier Park to vehicle traffic while trying to identify the man by finding his vehicle.

Police roadblock

Officers said they confirmed his identity and informed his family just before 7 p.m. and the park was reopened.

An EPS Staff Sgt. said RCMP and other agencies downstream of the park were notified of the missing man in case his body is found.

Police did not name the victim but said he lived near the park and was out walking his dog.