Search and rescue: A shared responsibility

A search and rescue technician wearing an orange uniform carries a patient out of a helicopter.
Warrant Officer Aaron Bygrove transports a patient from Algoma Lake to a hospital during a medical evacuation on November 20, 2017 on a search and rescue mission. (Image from video by 8 Wing Trenton)

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By: Ashley Black, Canadian Joint Operations Command

Canadians work best when they work together. Across Canada, search and rescue (SAR) responsibilities are shared among a number of organizations, which help Canadians who find themselves facing the dangers of Canada’s rugged environment.

A recent SAR mission in Port Hope, Ontario, was no exception. Along with the local fire department, the Canadian Coast Guard, and the Ontario Provincial Police, a Canadian Armed Forces SAR team successfully assisted two boaters trapped on a sailboat.

Warrant Officer Aaron Bygrove is a SAR technician who was deployed on this mission. He serves under the Joint Rescue Coordination Centre (JRCC) Trenton, which is responsible for SAR efforts in the Great Lakes and the bulk of Canada’s land mass, all the way up to the North Pole.

On October 17, 2017, JRCC Trenton tasked a CH-146 Griffon to go to a scene in Port Hope. A sailboat was beating up against the rocks and two boaters were on board.

When the Port Hope Police and the Canadian Coast Guard were unable to reach the parties due to wind and high waves, Warrant Officer Bygrove and his SAR Crew on board the Griffon began to assess the situation.

“We hoisted a team member, Master Corporal Torey Foster, down onto the rocks,” explains Warrant Officer Bygrove.

Master Corporal Foster got in contact with the on-scene local authorities to gain insight into how the team on board the Griffon could help. “We allowed him to get up close to see if the boaters needed any immediate medical assistance, to make a decision on their flotation, find out how to get them off that boat,” said Warrant Officer Bygrove.

Master Corporal Foster contacted the team and together they determined that he and Warrant Officer Bygrove would get the boaters off the boat and swim with them to a safer area before being pulled from the water. “We always want to try and pick the least hazardous way of extracting someone from a situation,” he explained.

The two SAR technicians dressed in a scuba-diving ensemble—minus the diving tanks and breathing apparatuses—to enter the water and safely swim with the boaters.

“I hoisted down next to Master Corporal Foster to check what the water conditions were like,” says Warrant Officer Bygrove. “I got into the water and started to walk towards the sailboat. The water was pretty calm on one side of the sailboat so we were able to get the two boaters over to where the fire fighters and police officer were standing on the brick wall.”

The boaters were safely removed from the water and the Ontario Provincial Police took over from there. Warrant Officer Bygrove, Master Corporal Foster, and the team on board the Griffon returned to Trenton.

For Warrant Officer Bygrove, using his unique skill set to help Canadians makes being a SAR technician fulfilling. “I love being able to work on aircraft, in the medical field, in technical and high angle rescue, as well as parachuting and rappelling,” he says. “These are all things that I enjoy. To be able to come to work every day and employ those in a way that’s as amazing as being able to help your neighbour is a great highlight for me.”

Every organization involved in SAR efforts brings a certain specialization and skill to a mission. The Port Hope mission is an example of how successful teamwork between partner organizations can help save Canadians facing the worst day of their lives. When different organizations work together to support one another, Canadians can rest assured that they are in good hands.

“Search and rescue teams are standing-by 24 hours a day, seven days a week all over Canada to help Canadians,” says Warrant Office Bygrove. “This is something that is very special that we have in the Canadian Armed Forces and in Canada.”

Image gallery

  • Two search and rescue technicians dressed in orange and one pilot dressed in green pose for a photo in front of a yellow helicopter.
  • A search and rescue technician wearing an orange uniform carries a patient out of a helicopter.
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