Unanimous support for SAR in House

James
James McLeod
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Private member’s motion sparked by Burton Winters tragedy

Tama Stephanie Fost, a family member of deceased Labrador youth Burton Winters, speaks to Liberal MHA Randy Edmunds in the lobby of Confederation Building Wednesday afternoon. — Photo by James McLeod/The Telegram

It was a tearful scene in the lobby of Confederation Building Wednesday evening, as Labrador MHA Randy Edmunds embraced Tama Stephanie Fost.

Fost is a family member of 14-year-old Burton Winters who froze to death on the sea ice near Makkovik after running into trouble on his snowmobile.

Fost wiped tears from her eyes as she thanked Edmunds for a private member’s motion, unanimously passed in the House Wednesday, which calls on both the provincial and federal government to examine their search and rescue protocols.

Burton’s body was found more than 19 kilometres from his snowmobile three days after he was reported missing.

“In the Burton Winters case, something went wrong, and if this is protocol and this is normal then it needs to be fixed,” Edmunds said.

“Rather than cutting back on services in search and rescue in the province, I think the province and the federal government should be increasing them,” Edmunds said.

Premier Kathy Dunderdale and her caucus supported the motion. She said she’s particularly interested in pressing the federal government to reverse its decision to close the marine rescue sub-centre in St. John’s.

Dunderdale said she’s satisfied the provincial portion of the search and rescue system is adequate.

“We reviewed our protocols,” she said. “We looked at what we are able to provide given that we’re a half million people in a vast geographic area. What is sensible and prudent and what we can afford.”

Following debate in the House, Dunderdale also came out into the lobby to offer her condolences to Fost.

Friday afternoon the government announced it will spend $510,000 on thermal imaging cameras for search and rescue teams.

A group of people accompanied Fost, all pushing for more search and rescue assets in Labrador. Artist Terry Rielly, speaking for the group, said if the timing of the announcement was strategic, he’s fine with that.

“It’s good timing on their part, and why not?” he said. “If it was a political opportunity for them? Yay to them. Grab the opportunity and let’s do the right thing.”

In the House, Liberal and NDP members used the private member’s debate to talk about the need for expanded cellphone coverage as another potentially critical lifesaving tool.

NDP MHA Christopher Mitchelmore said the provincial government could really put a concerted push to bring cell coverage to under-served areas.

“Why aren’t we looking at partnering with the telecommunications companies and investing similar to the rural broadband initiative?” Mitchelmore asked. “This is where we need to sit down and have a real telecommunications strategy and this can tie into search and rescue as well, because it’s all part of the process.”

jmcleod@thetelegram.com

Twitter: TelegramJames

Organizations: NDP

Geographic location: Makkovik, Labrador

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Recent comments

  • Island lady
    March 08, 2012 - 09:43

    I have to agree with FLEXXA. Why was this young child allowed to travel on the snowmobile at night alone. I am not saying that SARS protocol failed this young child and his family which I think they did but I also feel that the family failed their son as well. WHY WHY I ask was he allowed to travel at night time on the ice by himself. God rest his gentle soul and grant strength and courage to his family to deal with such hurt.... Sorry if my comments offends anyone but the question is in my mind WHY ?????

    • prufock
      March 08, 2012 - 10:53

      The legal age for operating a snowmobile without an adult supervisor is 14, so there's no problem there. However, this is irrelevant to the point of the article. If the person had stolen the snowmobile, or gone farther than the parents allowed, or lost track of time when told he should be home by dark, or if he was in his twenties, would any of this matter? Does it actually say anywhere that he was "allowed" to be where he was when he was. The fact of the matter is it could have been anybody.

  • Marg
    March 08, 2012 - 07:31

    It took a horrific death of a young teenager to bring about a unanimous debate in the House. Too late for Burton Winters and his family, though. If he had been one of their children, they would have come up with a SAR helicopter pretty quickly. They wouldn't have kept one in Gander "just in case it was needed elsewhere". FLEXXA, the family is going through enough heartache and agony. Please have some common decency and keep such thoughts to yourself.

  • Duggan
    March 08, 2012 - 07:04

    Al NLers agree on this tragedy and the role DND protocols played in it. We all agree - but Ottawa will not.

  • Carol Ann Rogers
    March 08, 2012 - 06:59

    The following is a quote from the National Emergency Measures Plan; it is clear the federal government does not truly understand the issue of communication within this regionally diverse country. Unless each community is equiped with satelite phones there is no communication via cell phones or internet access to several NL areas. Communication was the issue when SAR officals failed Burtin Winters as he froze to death on the ice. "Officials within these organizations maintain constant contact with the Government Operations Centre during an emergency as required to facilitate the timely exchange of information" Emergency Responce Plans are all on line in PDF format. National, Provincial and Municipal plans are all available and telecommunications company's are listed as part of the role of communications during a disaster. Why reinvent the weel and utilize these already set plans for SAR to also avail of these communication services during rescue missions. That is ofcourse if the written plan has been tested and proven to work, unlike the plan that didn't work for young Burtin.

  • flexxa
    March 08, 2012 - 06:35

    "“In the Burton Winters case, something went wrong..." - yes indeed it did when a 14 year old boy travels 10s over kilometers over sea ice on a ski doo by himself without a gps, cell phone, or emergency transponder. While the response from SAR was something to be desired and should be investigated the bottom line is this boy and his guardians made some terrible errors in judgement - he shouldn't have been out there in those circumstances to begin with.

    • Frank
      March 08, 2012 - 07:27

      Not from NL are you? Did you even read the article? They mention the need for expanded cellphone coverage so let me ask you what good a cellphone without reception would have done this young man? Don't blame the victim when the "process" fails. After all this "process" determines whether someone lives or dies.

    • Incorrect
      March 08, 2012 - 13:30

      He was found with a cell phone in his pocket. Expanded cell phone coverage is one of the issues here.