Money being raised in memory of missing snowmobiler

Derek Montague
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Search and rescue team in need of more equipment

Tom Newman of Roddickton went missing on his snowmobile in April. Family and friends in Newfoundland and Labrador are now raising money in his memory, so the Long Range Ground Search and Rescue Team can have much-needed equipment.

It’s been more than a month since Tom Newman of Roddickton, on the island’s Northern Peninsula, went missing. On April 11, Newman’s snowmobile went over the edge of the ice on Canada Bay and, despite great efforts by the local search and rescue team, his body has yet to be found.

Newman’s family across Newfoundland and Labrador are not sitting idly by, however. Despite the tragedy, they have found the strength to do something positive for anyone else who might need search and rescue services in the future.

Together, family and friends are actively raising money for the Long Range Ground Search and Rescue Team, based in Roddickton, so they can buy much-needed equipment for water searches. The fund has been named the Thomas Newman Memorial Fund, in honour of the missing snowmobiler.

Tom’s brother, Kevin Newman, assisted search and rescue right from the day Tom went missing, until the search efforts wrapped up more than a week later. He noticed that, despite the hard work of the Long Range Ground Search and Rescue Team, a lack of vital equipment hampered the search.

“For a land-based search, they’re geared up pretty good,” said Newman.

“But, for a water search, not so much.”

According to Newman, the searchers could really have used a big fiberglass boat, instead of the two 12-foot inflatable Zodiacs they own.

“Not a very good outfit for them kind of conditions. They need a bigger boat for that kind of search,” said Newman, who loaned his 20-foot boat to searchers.

Perhaps most vital is the need for an underwater camera. During the search for Tom Newman, the rescue crew had to borrow one from a local fisherman.

Kevin Newman’s wife, Bonnie, got the idea to start  raising money in memory of Tom, after hearing her husband recount how difficult it was to search for Tom in those harsh conditions.

“My husband used to be up there on the search, and he used to come home with nothing but good to say about the searchers,” said Bonnie.  “But he said, ‘I only wish they had the equipment.’”

Bonnie spread the word to family and friends about her goal: to raise enough money for an underwater camera and a new fibreglass boat for the local search and rescue team. The underwater camera is estimated to cost $8,000, while a new boat will cost several thousand dollars more.

In roughly a month of accepting donations, Bonnie has already received more than $5,000.

Even Labradorians are getting in on the act. Lori Pilgrim, Tom Newman’s biological daughter from Happy Valley-Goose Bay, has spread the word to friends and family in the Big Land about the fundraising efforts.

“Tom had a real passion for the search and rescue and he really had a lot of respect for them,” said Pilgrim. “And they were out there trying to do their best to find him. So we feel better by helping somebody else. If search and rescue had this equipment right away and somebody else is gone missing, maybe they can be saved … “

“Somebody who’s trying to find a worthy cause to donate some money, why not help the volunteers in your community with search and rescue, who are there for you when your family gets in trouble.”

After spreading the word through social media, Pilgrim has received nearly $400.

For the co-ordinator of the Long Range Ground Search and Rescue Team, Norman Pilgrim, the money raised will be highly appreciated.

The team, consisting of 32 volunteers, responds to emergencies in 57 communities and 400 square kilometres of land.

According to Pilgrim, they get no money from government funds and rely heavily on fundraising. They even cater to graduation ceremonies as a way to make money.

“We try whatever we can to keep everything going,” said Pilgrim.

Like Bonnie and Kevin Newman, Pilgrim believes obtaining an underwater camera should be a first priority.

“Right now, we’re going after the underwater camera,” said Pilgrim. “That’ll be a great tool for us for searching in areas that’s dangerous for divers.”

Anybody interested in making a donation can contact Bonnie Newman at bon_newman@yahoo.ca or Lori Pilgrim at loriwebberpilgrim@gmail.com

derek.montague@thelabradorian.ca

Organizations: Thomas Newman Memorial Fund

Geographic location: Roddickton, Canada Bay, Newfoundland and Labrador Happy Valley Goose Bay

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