PEAWANUCK – A twenty-three-year-old Peawanuck man suffering from autism has been found after a successful search of several hours by Canadian Rangers and community volunteers.
“This was a team effort,” said Sergeant Matthew Gull, commander of the Peawanuck Canadian Ranger patrol. “The Rangers and the community worked together.”
The small Cree community near the Hudson Bay coast usually has two Nishnawbe Aski Police officers in it but they were out of the settlement when the crisis began.
In their absence the Ontario Provincial Police asked the Canadian Army for help and the military authorized the use of the local Rangers, who are part-time army reservists.
The missing man lives with his parents, both of whom are Rangers, and has a history of wandering off by himself. The temperature at the time he disappeared was -1C with snow still on the ground.
“This is not the first time this has happened,” Sergeant Gull said. “I’d say it happens about four times a year.”
The man was last seen in his home about 2.30 a.m. “By 3 o’clock some immediate family members started searching for him around the community and outskirts of the community,” he said.
The Rangers established a command post in the missing man’s home and Rangers and volunteers began systematic searches of the airport area, trails on the outskirts of the community, as well as places where he had been found before.
One family member began walking along the shore of the Winisk River “and that’s when they began picking up his tracks on the shoreline ice. So we began concentrating the search in that direction,” Sergeant Gull said.
The man was found about eight kilometres down river. He was wearing boots without duffel liners, light trousers, a t-shirt and a light jacket. “He was wet and cold and dumping water out of his boots but he was in good spirits,” Sergeant Gull said.
He was taken to the community health centre and released unharmed after a medical examination.
The OPP had a helicopter about to join the search when he was found.
“This is another successful collaboration by the Rangers with their local community,” said Lieutenant-Colonel Matthew Richardson, commanding officer of the Canadian Rangers in northern Ontario. “It shows that our search and rescue system works, even when one part of the equation, the local police in this case, is missing. We were able to bring another search to a successful conclusion. Everyone involved did a good job and this young man lived.”
(Sergeant Peter Moon is the public affairs ranger for the 3rd Canadian Ranger Patrol Group at Canadian Forces Base Borden.)