ATTAWAPISKAT – A search for two lost hunters from Attawapiskat was a success as a result of a joint effort by Canadian Rangers, the community’s search and rescue organization, and De Beers Canada Inc., which provided a helicopter and pilot based at its Victor diamond mine.
“It was an excellent example of a community coming together and going to the aid of two of its members, who were in distress , and with the help of De Beers who provided a helicopter so readily and quickly,” said Lieutenant-Colonel Matthew Richardson, the Canadian Army officer commanding the Canadian Rangers in northern Ontario. “It was a good job well done by everyone involved.”
The two hunters, Eli Mattinas and Louis Kamalatisit, both in their 50s, set up a temporary camp in a tent and went searching on their snowmobiles for caribou. They got caught by a surprise blizzard and became lost in severe white-out conditions.
Out of fuel , with little food, and unable to find their way back to their camp, they built a temporary shelter and waited for help in temperatures that dropped as low as -21C.
They had a satellite phone but had trouble making a call on it, forcing them to spend two nights on the land. On their third day lost they were finally able to reach a family member in Attawapiskat on the phone and ask for help. They were unable to give an accurate description of where they were.
Because the hunters’ lives might be in danger, the Canadian Army authorized the use of Rangers from the Attawapiskat Canadian Ranger patrol to search for them. They were joined by members of the Attawapiskat search and rescue organization and a command post was established in the local police station.
An Ontario Provincial Police helicopter could not reach Attawapiskat until the next day so De Beers, which had a helicopter at its Victor mine, 70 kilometres west of Attawapiskat , were asked if their aircraft could be used in the search.
The diamond company agreed and the helicopter flew to Attawapiskat where it picked up two Canadian Rangers and George Kamalatisit, a brother of one of the missing hunters and a member of the community search and rescue organization.
“I was familiar with the area where they were hunting and where they were likely to be and I told the pilot where to look for them,” said Mr. Kamalatisit. “We found them about half an hour after we got to the area. They said they knew someone would come looking for them. All they had left from their food was some tea bags and some sugar. We gave them a box of food and the fuel they needed to get back to their camp.”
“When we landed they were laughing away,” said Ranger Master Corporal Mark Sutherland. “They had no tent or anything. They were just sitting by their temporary shelter and their fire without any food or fuel. You could tell they were glad to see us.”
(Sergeant Peter Moon is the public affairs ranger for 3rd Canadian Ranger Patrol Group at Canadian Forces Base Borden.)