Saturday, May 11, 2013


In the last days of the Federal By-Election Campaign, focus is once again on the lack of adequate Search and Rescue Resources in Labrador.

The Conservative Government does not give sufficient priority to search and rescue facilities in Labrador.

I think Captain Dave Bowen, 5 Wing Goose Bay’s Public Affair’s office might be looking for a new challenge after his comments that the safety of Labradorians ranks third on DND's list of priorities.

While trying to explain why neither of the three Griffon Helicopter’s at the base were available for the 30 minute flight to rescue a fishing party in the frigid waters at Park Lake, he told The Telegram “ The main role of 444 is not SAR.. They are a ..Secondary SAR Unit. The initial mandate is to support wing operations here at 5 Wing Goose Bay. The second function is combat service utility and their third function is SAR”

Instead, a Cormorant out of the Primary Base in Gander arrived three hours and 15 minutes later. The SAR unit carried out a medical evacuation for a survivor but it was too late for former Innu Nation Grand Chief Joseph Riche whose body was recovered yesterday morning.

It was in the wake of furor over the Burton Winters tragedy that Defense Minister Peter MacKay stationed a third Griffon at Goose Bay to improve the military’s ability to assist with search and rescue. On April 11th 2012, MacKay said “ This helicopter represents another resource that can contribute to Canada's Search and Rescue system in support of primary responders in this region."

Peter the Cheater, a minister in the Harper Cabinet,  MP, a former Innu Chief, said at that time, "That will bring the number of helicopters from two to three and that will give full services to 5 Wing Goose Bay for their needs, as well for any request for ground search and rescue.”

Other functions of these military these assets include are ferrying soldiers to fishing trips to No-name Lake. Perhaps,  if some R&R was needed at no-name lake a Griffon might have been ready for duty!

The question now is how the hell did the military allow all three helicopters to be offline at the same time?

The military can not hide behind weather conditions, poor communications or a series of unfortunate events to cover their asses this time. Gross neglect of the importance of having a SAR asset available when needed for Labrador is the issue.

If all three helicopters were out of service, why was another asset not deployed for such an emergency?

Thanks to Captain Dave Bowen we know the answer, SAR is not a top priority, it is somewhere below an invasion by Finland!

Final question, had NDP MP Jack Harris's parliamentary resolution to establish a 30 response time for search and rescue services in Labrador not been sabotaged, would the outcome of the horrible accident at Park Lake been different?


Anonymous said...


This link demonstrates who has jurisdiction on sar. Was this a provincial government issue to coordinate the SAR. It does not take away from your post, I just feel there is confusion on the primacy of responsibility between the players.

Tam Arax said...

Jack Harris is an idiot of unimaginable magnitude. Had he truly understood the SAR posture of our limited resources, perhaps he could have made a difference. But that just isn’t the NDP way now, is it?

To compound the issue, the CH-146 Griffon helicopter is a piece of crap but it was built in Quebec. When we first received the helicopters, they could not be flown with the doors open. Imagine that!!! To add insult, the Bell supply system was added to the contract but has failed to deliver in the contracted timelines outside of any major urban area.

When I moved from 103 Rescue Unit in Gander to Goose Bay, I was somewhat surprised at how little people were actually at the Goose Bay squadron. 103 RU had lots of aircrew, maintainers and support people while Goose Bay really was staffed for a Monday to Friday operation. To support true SAR operations, the number of folks would need to be almost tripled. The 5 Wing PAO was correct in stating SAR is a secondary role of 444 Sqn.

Perhaps when the NDP ascends to federal power and Mr Harris is the MND, these minor irritants of garbage helicopters and scarce personnel can be rectified in an expedient manner.

But I won’t hold my breath….

Gabby said...

There is usually one helicopter down for regular maintenance at any given time. The second helicopter was getting a modification and the third helicopter was found to have been damaged during a flight a week or so ago.

Again, Triple Four squadron IS NOT a search and rescue squadron. While they have SAR Techs they were only added to the mix when the Allies were training here and insisted on local SAR capacity should they suffer a crash. They will provide SAR service if they can but SAR is not why Triple Four is stationed at 5 Wing.

Anonymous said...

I read your pathetic rant and it left me with the impression that you know absolutely nothing about search and rescue, let alone the military. How come no one has asked why the gentleman was not wearing a personal flotation device while in the canoe?


Anonymous said...

The Conservatives promised to beef up S&R in Labrador by adding an extra helicopter (which they had taken away previously) to assist with S&R. The fact that neither of the three helicopters were serviceable shows that the commitment was hollow. Had one been available help could have arrived three hours earlier than it did? S

Anonymous said...

The Conservatives built an expectation that they beefed up the SAR resources in Labrador. Instead of two serviceable choppers they have three. Funny how those machines are always functional for fishing trips,