FORT SEVERN – A Peawanuck man whose all-terrain vehicle broke down and caused him to be stranded for two nights near the windswept shore of Hudson Bay was found after Canadian Rangers used an Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources helicopter to find him.
Marcel Metatawabin, 38, left Fort Severn, where he had visited with family members, to travel back to Peawanuck. He quickly got into difficulties when heavy rains raised the water levels of the many streams and rivers he had to ford.
“I was happy when I saw the helicopter had found me,” said Mr. Metatawabin. “I had just eaten my last supply of food. My ATV was broken down, it was barely running, and the river was too deep to get across, because of the rain. I had decided I had to wait it out until I was found when the helicopter found me.”
The search for Mr. Metatawabin began when he did not return to Peawanuck as scheduled and friends conducted a brief search for him along the Winisk River and along the shore where the river empties into Hudson Bay. When they saw no sign of him the Nishnawbe Aski Police in Fort Severn asked the Canadian Armed Forces for assistance.
Mr. Metatawabin did not have a tent or sleeping bag with him and temperatures on the two nights he was on the land dropped to 5C. “I was wet and cold at night,” he said. He damaged his ATV trying to cross a swollen river and the water stalled his engine. It took him several hours to get the machine to shore and dry it out.
Canadian Rangers in Fort Severn and Peawanuck set up command posts and prepared to send search parties out, using freighter canoes and ATVs, to look for Mr. Metatawabin.
But before they could leave, an MNR helicopter landed at Peawanuck airport on Friday to refuel, three days after Mr Metatawabin had left Fort Severn Matthew Gull, the airport manager and the sergeant commanding the Rangers in Peawanuck, alerted the pilot to the emergency situation and the MNR authorized the use of its helicopter in the search.
Sergeant Gull flew in the helicopter and used his knowledge of hunting camps and likely travel routes along the Hudson Bay shore to guide the pilot’s search pattern. They quickly found Mr. Metatawabin huddled in wet clothing next to a small fire at an abandoned hunting camp.
“He was pleased to see us,” said Sgt. Gull. “He’d just eaten his last food. We picked him up and took him to Peawanuck. He left his four-wheeler where it was. He’ll go back and get it when freeze-up comes.”
(Sergeant Peter Moon is the public affairs ranger for 3rd Canadian Ranger Patrol Group at Canadian Forces Base Borden.)