Canadian Rangers assist in evacuation of injured snowmobiler

The injured snowmobiler is loaded on to a Royal Canadian Air Force helicopter.
The injured snowmobiler is loaded on to a Royal Canadian Air Force helicopter. Photo: Peter Moon

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By Peter Moon

A Canadian Ranger and a 13-year-old Junior Canadian Ranger helped the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) airlift an injured snowmobiler from a remote hunting camp near Attawapiskat in Northern Ontario.

The snowmobiler, a young woman from the isolated Cree community of Attawapiskat on the James Bay coast, was part of a small family group hunting geese. She got thrown from her snowmobile and was knocked unconscious.

A member of the group used a satellite phone to seek help. The call went to the emergency services dispatch centre in Timmins. It was passed on through the Nishnawbe Aski Police to the Ontario Provincial Police, who called on the Canadian Armed Forces for assistance.

Ranger Gilbert Spence of the Attawapiskat Canadian Ranger patrol left the community at about 2 a.m. along with a relative of the injured woman. They snowmobiled along the frozen shore of James Bay until they reached a hunting camp where the woman, who had regained consciousness, awaited evacuation for medical treatment.

An RCAF Hercules search aircraft with two search and rescue technicians from Canadian Forces Base Trenton arrived at the camp at about 4 a.m.

At the request of the pilots, Ranger Spence lined up snowmobiles with their headlights on to direct the technicians during their descents by parachute. He and Junior Canadian Ranger Eddie Fireman, who was at the hunting camp, assisted them as they dealt with the injured woman.

Image gallery

  • Junior Canadian Ranger Eddie Fireman and Ranger Gilbert Spence
  • The injured snowmobiler is loaded on to a Royal Canadian Air Force helicopter.

An RCAF rescue helicopter arrived from Trenton at about 8 a.m. and flew the woman to Moosonee where she was transferred to the RCAF Hercules, and flown to Sudbury for medical treatment.

The extent of the military response to assist a single injured person in a remote location impressed Ranger Spence. The rescue involved the Rangers, a Junior Ranger volunteer, highly trained members of the RCAF, and two aircraft.

“It made me proud to be a Ranger,” Ranger Spence said. “Young Eddie happened to be wearing his (Junior Ranger) cap and hoodie while he helped in any way he could.”

“Parachuting to emergencies is something we train for regularly,” said Master Corporal Brent Nolasco, one of the rescue technicians. “There were no obstacles and soft snow on the ground so we arrived quickly once we landed. We stabilized the patient in the hunting camp, and the Rangers and the snowmobiler’s family kept a fire going to keep everyone warm.”

(Sergeant Peter Moon is the public affairs ranger for the 3rd Canadian Ranger Patrol Group at Canadian Forces Base Borden.)

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