In light of the announcement of an additional Griffon helicopter in 5-wing Goose Bay, family, friends and supporters of the Burton Winters support group and members of the steering committee for the Burton’s Winters Rescue Center in Labrador were on hand Wednesday noon to continue to press the government for a full public inquiry into the minutes, hours, and days that led up to tragedy that took the life of 14 year old Burton Winters.
“We are demanding an inquiring. We want Kathy Dunderdale to call upon the government to call a full investigation into the search and rescue and answer to the truth of this matter,” said Happy Valley-Goose Bay resident and supporter Janet Cooper.
“United we stand and we continue Burton’s walk.”
Cooper says the people are angry at the way the government and particular constituents have not supported the push for an inquiry into the incident in which the 14-year-old Makkovik youth was found three days after a search was called.
“Burton had walked 19 km to his demise on the Labrador sea ice in one of the coldest months here in the north," said Cooper, adding the responses from the Department of National Defence (DND), who were called by Ground Search and Resucue crews to aid in the search for Winters, is not up to standards. “The search and rescue refused assistance to his aid - this is unacceptable, we demand an independent inquiry.”
Cooper says she is not satisfied with the announcement made on April 11 by Defence Minister Peter McKay of a third helicopter added to the 5-Wing, 444 Squadron. In a press release issued April 11, DND it outlined the third Griffon will provide increase utility capabilities and support for secondary tasking such as Search and Rescue when called on by the region’s primary responders - Ground Search and Rescue.
“That third helicopter that they sent to Goose Bay is a helicopter that already belonged here in Goose Bay, along with the other two,” Cooper told the Labradorian.
“The two that’s in disrepair up in the hangers up there (5Wing). We still don’t know whether they are ready to be called out should there be another accident or missing person and it’s (third Griffon) only bringing back what belonged here in the first place and it’s still not equipped to go out to sea from my understanding.”
In an e-mail response to questions posed by the Labradorian, DND said Wednesday the Griffon that is being assigned to Labrador had been sent to support operations in Afghanistan and had been used in several operations there - including Operation Athena and Operation Starfish.
Cooper says protest will continue as long as it takes to get an independent inquiry and answers from the federal and provincial government for the sake of the family and for the future of residents across Canada.
Marilyn Hynes echoed Cooper’s concerns, “We’re here for Burton because we want an inquiry.
“We been demanding for an inquiry for quite a while, not real long after the tragedy when people realized that there wasn’t a lot was being done and they want more, they want better, they want representation, I know I do.”
Hynes says she does not feel safer in the wake of the Griffon announcement.
“Hopefully we are going to get a lot more people involved, speaking out, rather than behind the scenes,” said Hynes.
The family and committee, supporters have been submitting numerous letters and circulating a petition that has collected well over 10,000 names in efforts to lobby the province to request a pubic inquiry into search and rescue in Newfoundland and Labrador.
“We are here today to remind our elected people that they are the voice; they are our voice in the political party, not their own voice, they are our leaders, our voice. They are in our capital cities because they offered to leave their career and they had to be our voice in the bigger picture of things. We chose them - they need to remember they need to answer us,” said Karen Barefoot - a speaker during the event.