With the rescue of one of their own, Canadian Rangers in Peawanuck have completed their third successful search and rescue mission of the year.
Ranger Jason Metatawabin set out to travel back to his home in Fort Severn on February 6 after spending several days visiting relatives in Peawanuck. He was about half way through the usual six-hour journey when his snowmobile broke down.
The temperature was –40C with heavy winds driving the windchill down to about –60C.
“I wasn’t too worried,” he said. “I didn’t have the spare parts for my machine I usually carry but I had everything else. I had my pots, emergency gear, and I had caribou meat.”
To get out off the frigid wind on the open tundra, he made two trips on foot and carried the survival gear he needed into the tree line, which was about three kilometers away, and where there was plenty of firewood.
He built a big fire to melt the deep snow to the ground and spread the embers, placed spruce boughs on the warm ground to retain the heat, built windbreaks, made tea, cooked some caribou ribs, and settled down in his sleeping bag to wait for the rescuers he knew would come looking for him.
The search for him began when worried relatives contacted the police and the Rangers and said he was overdue. The Rangers set up command posts in both Fort Severn and Peawanuck and a two-person Ranger search team set out from each community.
Master Corporal Mike Koostachin and Ranger Thomas Mack from Peawanuck found Metatawabin’s abandoned snowmobile at 1.50 a.m. and followed his tracks into the tree line, where they found him comfortable and warm next to his fire. The Rangers took him back to the nursing station in Peawanuck where he was quickly released unharmed.
“Jason had been exposed for 20 hours to minus 40 degree weather with strong winds,” said Sergeant Matthew Gull of Peawanuck. “He had everything with him for an emergency. He had a chain saw, axe, food, everything. He’s a Canadian Ranger, he knows how to travel. He was unharmed. My two Rangers finished up with some minor frostbite. It was a good outcome.”
“That he was unharmed is a rarity,” said Sergeant Jamie Stirling, provincial search and rescue coordinator with the Ontario Provincial Police. “When you look at those temperatures and the environment he was in that’s incredible. But he was well prepared for an emergency and well trained by the Rangers. Everyone travelling in the North should be as well prepared as he was for an emergency.”
The OPP had a search team and a helicopter ready to join the mission at first light, he said, but the successful nighttime search made their involvement unnecessary.
In January, Rangers in Peawanuck participated in two successful search and rescue missions that saved the lives of three men from the community.
(Sergeant Peter Moon is the public affairs ranger for 3rd Canadian Ranger Patrol Group at Canadian Forces Base Borden.)
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