By Peter Moon
Canadian Rangers were involved in two search and rescue missions in Northern Ontario on Christmas Day.
One ended with the successful rescue of a snowmobiler who was stranded when his machine broke through the ice as he tried to cross a frozen creek. The second search, for a snowmobiler who was last seen on Wednesday, was suspended overnight and will resume on Boxing Day.
The successful search was for a member of the Wawakapewin First Nation, also known as Long Dog Lake, located about 600 kilometers north of Thunder Bay. He set out on Friday morning to snowmobile to Wawapeka First Nation, a drive of about 175 kilometers. When he failed to arrive as expected the Ontario Provincial Police were alerted. The OPP asked for help from the Canadian Army and the army authorized the use of local Canadian Rangers. The Rangers are part-time army reservists.
Master Corporal Dwayne Brown teamed up with a civilian volunteer, Bobby McKay, a Wapekeka band councillor , to begin a search. They found the overdue traveller had got his snowmobile stuck in slushy ice on a small creek he was trying to cross and could not free it. The two rescuers got their own snowmobiles stuck in the slush.
They radioed for assistance and Sergeant Spencer Anderson and Master Corporal Orion Ryan snowmobiled from Kitchenuhmaykoosibe Inninuwug First Nation to help them. They arrived to find the snowmobilers had freed their machines from the slush and they travelled as a group to Wapekeka.
“Organizing this early on a Christmas morning was a challenge,” said Sergeant Anderson. “But I’m happy it worked out well.”
The second and continuing search involves a member of Long Lake No. 58 First Nation, located 40 kilometers east of Geraldton. The man was last seen at a store on the reserve around mid-day on Wednesday. He told people was leaving to snowmobile to Geraldton to pick up an online purchase. He left just as a major snow storm moved in, dumping more than 100 centimetres of snow on the ground.
The local OPP asked the army for help and Rangers from Long Lake were authorized to assist them.
A search involving Rangers and volunteers on snowmobiles and in vehicles began on Thursday but ended with the loss of daylight. It resumed at first light on Christmas Day with local OPP officers and an OPP helicopter joining the search without success. It will resume on Boxing Day.
The Long Lake Ranger patrol was only started in October of last year but their training helped the search greatly, said Chief Judy Desmoulin. “Their army training has made them so competent,” she said. “I am very satisfied with their response.”
“The good news is that, even though it was Christmas, we were, as ever, ready to react 24-7, 365 days of the year to these two life threatening situations,” said Lieutenant-Colonel Shane McArthur, the Canadian Army officer who commands the Rangers across the Far North of Ontario. “We’re had one successful recovery of an individual who needed our assistance. We are working closely with the OPP and looking for a favourable conclusion to the second search.”
(Sergeant Peter Moon is the public affairs ranger for the 3rd Canadian Ranger Patrol Group at Canadian Forces Base Borden.)