The Department of National Defence faces sharp criticism once again for the use of a Military Search and Rescue (SAR) helicopter that was photographed landing on the shores of No Name Lake, Labrador in early June.
The image was posted on Facebook last week and has caused a major uproar of reaction from supporters and group members of the “Burton Winters Rescue Centre in Labrador,” who are questioning the use of the Military’s SAR assets.
The anger stems from SAR’s failure to quickly respond in the search for 14-year-old Burton Winters of Makkovik last January.
DND Spokesperson Captain Dave Bowen said members of the 444 Combat Squadron and DND members accessed the remote location known simply as No Name Lake, approximately 34-minute flight from Goose Bay on June 8th.
“It is often used for SAR scenario training due to its confined landing area and similarity to other remote fishing camps,” Bowen wrote in an email message sent to The Labradorian on Tuesday.
“DND members accessed this location by a familiarization/readiness flight on a CH-146 Griffon helicopter. This trip was approved by the Commanding officer of 444 Combat Support Squadron as an extraordinary measure to recognize the effort of the ground crews in completing essential maintenance and detailed inspection of one of the aircraft returning to Goose Bay from a deployment in Jamaica,” Bowen wrote.
“Crew member responsible for this CH-146 Griffon while at No Name Lake remained available for operational response. They maintained open communication with the 5 Wing Operations Centre and were in a position to respond and re-task should operational requirements dictate. An additional Search and Rescue-configured helicopter was ready at 5 Wing if required,” added Bowen.
When asked if there are future plans to use the helicopters for additional activities for military to take place in the future Bowen stated:
“444 CS Sqn regularly participates in operations in conjunction with 5 Wing Goose Bay. The squadron continues to fly readiness, training and if needed SAR mission. This decisions of what missions will be flown is an ongoing part of the day-to-day operations at the squadron and missions vary in type and number. Utilization of the CH-146 helicopters in operations will continue in a variety of mission types.”
“This trip was approved by the Commanding officer of 444 Combat Support Squadron as an extraordinary measure to recognize the effort of the ground crews in completing essential maintenance and detailed inspection of one of the aircraft returning to Goose Bay from a deployment in Jamaica,” - — Captain Dave Bowen, DND spokesperson
Less than 6 months ago the late 14-year-old Burton Winters was reported missing after he failed to return home on his snowmobile on January 29. A ground crew consisting of local RCMP members, Canadian Rangers members and community members, first began the search for Winters by heading out on snowmobile in and around the northern coastal community and out on the ice.
Three days later, Winter’s lifeless body was recovered from the sea ice approximately 20 km away from the community after being spotted by a Canadian Helicopters flight that had been searching the area.
In the days and weeks following the tragic incident the family of Winters questioned the military’s response and role in the search.
Family, supporters and political leaders including liberal MHA for Torngat Mountains, Randy Edmunds requested that a full-scale review be conducted into way the search was handled for the young 14-year-old Makkovik resident, which included a review of the military’s response to the request for assistance in the search.
As a result of their efforts, the Department of National Defense conducted an investigation into the timeline of events and cited a number of procedural and mechanical issues that included weather; the formerly required second ‘call back’ procedure as well as lack of a serviceable SAR helicopter.
The family has continued to demand that the government conduct a full-scale public inquiry into the tragic incident.