PEAWANUCK – Canadian Rangers have completed a successful search and rescue mission to find a fisherman whose snowmobile fell through the ice on a creek and left him wet and stranded in bitter cold.
Marcel Metatawabin, 41, left Peawanuck, a small Cree community 35 kilometres from the Hudson Bay coast, on Saturday to go ice fishing and set traps. He planned on meeting up with a hunting party the following day and returning with them to Peawanuck.
He never reached the party because his snowmobile went through ice as he was crossing a frozen creek. He was unable to retrieve his machine but he was able to walk to a nearby empty hunting cabin where he was able to start a fire and dry his clothes.
“I was well prepared,” he said. “I had my grub, my sleeping bag, my chain saw. I just stayed in the cabin and waited for someone like the Rangers to come and find me. It was really cold but I had a wood stove.”
The police were notified when the hunting party he was supposed to meet up with returned to Peawanuck and said they had not seen him. The Ontario Provincial Police asked the Canadian Army for assistance and the Rangers, who are part-time army reservists, were authorized to conduct a search.
Three Rangers left the community in blowing snow in the dark early yesterday morning. They quickly ran into trouble when a ski on Sergeant Matthew Gull’s snowmobile got caught in a rut and it rolled over, damaging it and causing injuries to Sergeant Gull’s knee and a shoulder. He was forced to return to the community for medical treatment. He was released after treatment at the nursing station.
The other Rangers – Master Corporal Mike Koostachin and Corporal Maurice Mack – continued to the mouth of the Winisk River on Hudson Bay, where they found snowmobile tracks.
They followed the tracks and found the cabin in which Mr. Metatawabin was sheltering from the cold. The temperature at the time was -30C with winds gusting to 35 kilometres an hour, producing wind chills as cold as -41C. “I heard their engines and I went outside to meet them,” Mr. Metatawabin said. “I told them I was happy to see them. I was getting low on food.”
The Rangers were unable to get his frozen snowmobile started so they took him back to Peawanuck in a sled.
“It’s starting to be a routine with Marcel,” joked Sergeant Gull , who used his specialized knowledge of the land around Peawanuck to guide a helicopter pilot to where Mr. Metatawabin was stranded for two days in 2014 when his all-terrain vehicle broke down. By the time he was found he had eaten the last of his food.
His most recent rescue was the 23rd successful search and rescue mission conducted by Rangers this year in remote First Nation communities across the Far North of Ontario, said Lieutenant-Colonel Matthew Richardson, the officer commanding the 3rd Canadian Ranger Patrol Group, which commands 630 Rangers in 23 First Nations.
He said he hopes the Rangers will not be as busy this winter as they were last winter. “But if we are we’re ready for it,” he said. “It’s a great partnership we have with the OPP and the local police services.
“This rescue had a great outcome and I think doing searches like this is one of the biggest services the Rangers do for their communities.”
(Sergeant Peter Moon is the public affairs ranger for the 3rd Canadian Ranger Patrol Group at Canadian Forces Base Borden.)