Canadian Rangers have conducted a successful nighttime search for two overdue boaters from Kashehewan First Nation with the help of signal gunshots fired by the boaters.
The two boaters left the isolated Cree community on James Bay in a freighter canoe to recover a stranded snowmobile and were due home by sunset. When they did not return the wife of one of the men phoned Redfern Wesley, a member of the band council, late at night seeking help.
Mr. Wesley is also a Canadian Ranger with long experience in conducting search and rescue operations. With the Ranger patrol commander out of the community, he began putting together a search party of five Rangers and a civilian volunteer.
The local police were unable to conduct search and rescue operations outside Kashechewan and asked the Canadian Army for help. The army authorized the local Rangers, who are part-time army reservists, to begin a search because the overdue boaters’ lives might be in jeopardy. The two men had no survival equipment with them and one had a medical condition and he did not have his medication with him.
The searchers left Kashechewan in three freighter canoes around 1 am and headed south, keeping close to the shoreline. After about two hours they heard gunshots from the shore, headed towards the sounds, and found the men on the beach.
The men told the searchers they got in caught in a fog that forced them towards the shore. They ran aground in shallow water and could not free their boat because of a retreating tide.
“They didn’t have anything with them, no survival equipment, nothing,” said Ranger Redfern. “But they did have rifles and shotguns. There are geese on the bay. They had been walking for about five hours when they saw our flashlights on our boats and starting firing shots to attract our attention.
“We gave them hot tea and water. One of them only had a sweater and he was cold. I had packed extra clothes, some of my winter gear, and gave him a warm coat and gloves to warm up. We got them back to Kashechewan quickly and they were all right.
“I went back later in the day to help them retrieve their boat and the snowmobile.
“The Rangers do a good job when we have to.”
The five army reservists were Rangers Ryan Friday, Brandon Nakogee, Jacob Sutherland, Redfern Wesley, and Malachi Wynne. The civilian volunteer was Sheldon Lazarus.
(Sergeant Peter Moon is the public affairs ranger for the 3rd Canadian Ranger Patrol Group at Canadian Forces Base Borden.)