Outdoorsman’s help 'the best thing we could've had' in Sask. RCMP search for stranded snowmobilers
SASKATOON -- The Meadow Lake RCMP detachment has awarded a Certificate of Appreciation to a man for his help saving two stranded snowmobilers.
"Without him, the situation could have ended very differently and that's why it was important for us to recognize him," says an officer identified as Cst. Carignan in a news release.
"We would never have found that exact location. His knowledge of the territory, it was the best thing we could've had."
Late on Jan. 31, Carignan and Cst. Goodfellow investigated five dropped 911 calls from a phone number that couldn’t receive calls.
The cell location was 45 kilometers south of Green Lake and 30 kilometers into the bush, Goodfellow said in the release.
“My initial instinct was that it wasn't a natural place to be calling from – no roads, no houses. Even though you don't have all the information, you have to assume that people are likely in distress.”
"We knew something bad may have happened,” Carignan said.
“The male caller was able to ask the operator to phone someone for him. We were able to search the phone number and locate who it was associated to – we went to that location and learned there were two adult males from that residence soaking wet and stranded in the woods. We asked the family if they needed our assistance and they said 'yes.'"
The officers returned to the Meadow Lake Detachment and loaded two RCMP snowmobiles and rescue supplies onto a trailer. The temperature was -18 C and dropping.
They and family of the missing men drove 20 minutes away to a location where they could unload their snowmobiles – three in total - and begin searching around 9:30 p.m..
"There are no real snowmobile trails in that area. There are trees, steep ravines, rivers, logging roads and trap lines. We had to build our own little trails in some areas,” Carignan said.
Goodfellow said the area is filled with moose, wolves and other wildlife.
"You have to be aware of what's going on around you at all times – you could break down, damage the snowmobile – you have to be careful because if you break down, you're in the middle of nowhere."
They came into contact with an experienced outdoorsman, identified in the release as Mr. T, who was familiar with the area and the missing people. He was also out searching on snowmobile.
“I showed him a map of where they were believed to be and Mr. T identified the area immediately and guided us directly there," Goodfellow said.
Around midnight, the party found the men cold, their clothing soaked through and frozen. Their snowmobile had broken through waist-deep water at the bottom of a 20-foot ravine. Their fire had gone out fifteen minutes prior.
They took the men to a home 30 minutes away so they could warm up and be picked up.
The pair were taken to hospital and assessed for minor injuries.
"It was a stressful event,” Goodfellow said. “We found two people who may not have survived if we hadn't located them. We didn't know their fire went out, we didn't know if they were injured. Your brain goes to the worst-case scenario and you don't know the timeline you have. It just so happened the timeline was good in this situation."