EABAMATOONG FIRST NATION – An unusual search for a missing 14-year-old girl in Eabamatoong First Nation has ended successfully.
“Everyone is relieved we found her,” said Sergeant Harry Papah, commander of the community’s Canadian Ranger patrol. “I’m proud of everyone who was involved in this search. It was always in the back of our minds: are we going to get her alive?”
The girl’s family searched for her for three days before notifying the police that she was missing. The local Nishnawbe Aski Police detachment, which had only two officers in the community, asked for the assistance of the Ontario Provincial Police. The OPP has no officers in the community and asked the Canadian Army for help. The army approved the use of members of the local Canadian Ranger patrol. Eabametoong, also known as Fort Hope, is a small Ojibway First Nation, 300 kilometers northeast of Thunder Bay, with a population of about 1,300.
Fourteen Rangers, who are part-time army reservists, established a command post in a temporary classroom at the school and began searching roads, trails, and cabins while the two local police officers began a house to house search for the missing girl. They were joined by about 15 local volunteers.
The next day the Rangers expanded their search by travelling by snowmobile to check hunting camps before joining the intensified search in the community.
In the afternoon the girl was spotted by her mother, Rangers, and some volunteers as she walked behind a vehicle.
“She was cold and dehydrated,” Sergeant Papah said. “A nurse happened to be nearby and she did a quick assessment and the police took her to the health clinic.”
The searchers found that the girl, who had only light clothing, was using a sleeping bag to sleep in the vehicle. She was ill-prepared for the cold, which included freezing rain and wet snow.
“We have no idea why she left home,” Sergeant Papah said. “We have no idea about the family situation. The important thing for us is that she is alive.”
An OPP emergency response team with a tracker dog was on its way by plane to join the search when the girl was found.
“The diligent efforts of the Rangers and the community volunteers to assist the two local police officers led to a safe resolution for this search,” said Major Charles Ohlke, a company commander at 3rd Canadian Ranger Patrol Group, which commands the Rangers in Northern Ontario. “We are very proud of our Rangers and the successful results of their efforts.”
(Sergeant Peter Moon is the public affair ranger for 3rd Canadian Ranger Patrol Group at Canadian Forces Base Borden.)