'He was trying to make a fire': Northern Sask. man found alive after snowmobile broke down in extreme cold
SASKATOON -- Searchers say they found a man in an abandoned cabin with symptoms of hypothermia over the weekend.
George Venne Jr. was last seen leaving a cabin on Besnard Lake on a snowmobile at about 10 a.m. on Saturday. At the time, the temperature in La Ronge was -33 C, but felt like -44 with the wind chill.
The Lac La Ronge Indian Band sent out two searches from Sucker River to look for him. After a two-and-a-half hour trip to the area, they went out on snowmobiles at about 5 p.m., starting from his last known location.
“It doesn’t matter how good of a bush man you are, you’ve got to watch out for Mother Nature. She’ll get you,” said Trevor Ratt, one of the searchers.
Ratt said he traced Venne’s tracks with the help of another searcher, Jason Halkett. The pair eventually found Venne’s snowmobile, which had broken down. Venne walked several kilometres to the nearest shelter.
Ratt and Halkett found him in an abandoned cabin around 7:45 p.m.
“We opened that door and it was really smoky in there. He was trying to make a fire and he failed, it was so cold. I guess he cramped up and he fell down and he couldn’t get back up,” said Ratt.
He said Venne had taken his socks off, which were wet from walking through slush.
Ratt called 911 from a satellite phone and La Ronge paramedics met them at the road by Morning Lake.
Devin Bernatchez, Lac La Ronge Indian Band councillor for Sucker River, helped organize search efforts. He thanked Ratt and Halkett for putting everything aside to search in the bitter conditions, which even made it hard to see at times with ice crystals building up on their goggles.
“Cell service isn’t everywhere around here, so communication is key,” he said.
If you’re planning on going outside, especially in rural areas, he said it’s important to let others know what time you plan on going and when you plan on returning.
“In 40 below weather, time is of the essence,” said Bernatchez.
Bernatchez said Venne, who is almost 50 years old, has a cabin in the area. He said he was travelling to it when his snowmobile broke down.
Venne spent some time in the La Ronge Health Centre until his temperature went back to normal and is now recovering at home with his family.