Questions linger over Burton Winters’ death

James McLeod
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Dunderdale to meet with family ‘one grandmother to another’

Premier Kathy Dunderdale told reporters Monday she will meet with the family of Burton Winters, the 14-year-old Labrador teen who died after his snowmobile broke down.

The meeting with Winters’ grandmother comes as new questions swirl around the teen’s death on the Labrador sea ice earlier this year.

“Burton Winters’ grandmother called, and said, ‘I want to come talk to you about Burton, because he’s gotten lost in all of this,’”

Dunderdale told reporters. “One grandmother to another grandmother, I’m going to sit and talk about Burton.”

According to a report by the CBC Monday morning, searchers were stymied in the crucial first hours of the search for Winters in late January.

But in response to the story, both the RCMP and Premier Kathy Dunderdale say the CBC has the facts wrong.

“The government has been consistent in its iteration of the facts regarding the Burton Winters tragedy since the very first day,” Dunderdale said Monday during question period in the House of Assembly. “There is no new news here.”

When Burton got lost on the Labrador sea ice in late January, his snowmobile broke down and he walked for 19 kilometres before eventually freezing to death.

Since his death, questions have been raised about the search-and-rescue response, especially when it comes to the military’s decision not to dispatch a Cormorant helicopter to search for Burton.

At issue Monday were recordings of conversations between search-and-rescue officials obtained by the CBC under access to information legislation.

One conversation in particular seems to indicate the RCMP asked for a helicopter to assist them on the first day of searching for Burton.

Local RCMP was the primary search co-ordinator when Burton went missing, but a recording of a conversation between RCMP Cpl. Kimball Vardy and military search-and-rescue dispatcher Capt. Kristin MacDonald in Nova Scotia seem to indicate Vardy contacted the provincial government’s Department of Fire and Emergency Services on the first day of the search and asked for a helicopter to aid them.

But on Monday, RCMP spokesman  Sgt. Marc Colombe said that’s not true.

“They were saying the initial call was made to Fire and Emergency Services. It wasn’t. That’s the discrepancy,” Colombe said.

All of these issues led Labrador Liberal MHA Randy Edmunds to renew his call for an inquiry into the Burton Winters tragedy, and search-and-rescue services.

“Something went wrong,” Edmunds said. “The only thing that can get to the bottom of this is an inquiry.”

Dunderdale has dismissed the idea of an inquiry before, and on Monday she downplayed the new information.

Dunderdale said she has her own questions about Burton’s death, specifically about why the federal search-and-rescue personnel weren’t sent to aid in the search, but she’s pursuing that part of things with Defence Minister Peter MacKay.

“Up to this point, we haven’t received a satisfactory answer,” she said.

Twitter: TelegramJames

Organizations: RCMP, CBC, Department of Fire and Emergency Fire and Emergency Services

Geographic location: Labrador, Nova Scotia

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Recent comments

  • Karl
    May 29, 2012 - 14:50

    Very sad story. The part that gets me is that if the family had some clout the story possibly would have ended differently. Shame on us as a society another pointless death.

  • Pround Newfoundland Mother
    May 09, 2012 - 12:11

    What everyone needs to remmeber and understand in this tragic situation is that a young boy lost his life ... a young boy was lost, cold and scared trying to find his way home and that the people who are trained and suppose to help rescue him and us were not out looking for him were not coming to his rescue and that is TRAGIC .... I can not imagine how scared and lonely this young boy was in his final hours and NO ONE SHOULD FORGET THAT SOMEONES BABY DIED AS A RESULT OF SEARCH AND RESCUE NOT DOING WHAT THEY ARE TRAINED TO DO! Remember Burton Winters and PRAY no one else has to feel the loss his family and friends and all Newfoundland and Labrador people are feeling ... As a parent I pray for the Winters family

  • sealcove
    May 08, 2012 - 11:50

    Stunderdale would not what the truth is if it bit her

  • Newman
    May 08, 2012 - 10:42

    Too bad politicians, bureaucrats, RCMP and DND-SAR didn't point their fingers at a lost and dying child and say "We should help him."

  • Peggy
    May 08, 2012 - 09:42

    The Premier is meeting Burton's grandmother at the grandmother's request. Shame on you, Premier. You should have, long before this, visited with Burton's parents and family, or even attended this young teenager's funeral, on your own initiative, and out of respect. What a horrific suffering, long lingering, lonely death Burton went through, all unnecessarily, and ever since, to add insult to injury, the buck is being thrown around as to who is to blame for the long delay in his recovery. Dunderdale, what if it was one of your children or grandchildren, instead of Burton????? They certainly would have been rescued asap. You should put a bag over your head when coming face to face with young Burton's grandmother. You, and all others involved (or rather, "not" involved), if you have any iota of a conscience, should live in shame and guilt the rest of your lives. Make a visit to Burton's resting place in your minds, because I know it certainly won't be in person, and remember that it is a grave site that should never be. Burton should be with his family and friends, in school, and having all the advantages and pleasures of growing into an adult.....but this was all stolen from him. I get more furious and heart-broken and crying every time I think of this innocent young teenager !!!!!! God, please give Burton's family Your strength and comfort and peace, and, yes, well-deserved truthful answers. And I know Burton is there in Heaven right now with you, God.

  • Harold
    May 08, 2012 - 08:32

    WE, the people of Newfoundland, need an inquiry into this matter. it seems every time someone in authority opens their mouth they only add to the confussion. Premier, do the right thing and call an inquiry, let the chips fall where they may. my heart goes out to the family of Burton Winters. they should not have to endure this BS from people in authority whos job it was to protect a 14 year old boy who was lost on the ice. burton was let down by DND/SAR, fire and emergency services and now it seems he may have also been let down by the RCMP. we need to know what happened, we deserve to know what happened. call an inquiry premier.

  • We're not asking for DG six numbers here
    May 08, 2012 - 08:25

    OUR premer sould stop playting politics with this issue and start giving us answers. Maybe after she gets her raise she will release some of this top secert info to public. If our premier doesn't want to stand up for us, our province or burton Winters, then she can step aside and let someone who's willing to do the job, do it! She obviously has no vision, willingness or apparent know how on such matters. And that is sad, not good enough and reckless to us all. Another condition tied to Muskrat i spose!

  • AR
    May 08, 2012 - 07:31

    Premier Dunderdale said the government has been consistent in its 'iteration' of the facts. ' Iteration ', Kathy ?. My my, we're impressed. Not exactly a term used in everyday conversation. Just goes to show what one might find when flipping through the pages of a dictionary.

    • Mike
      May 08, 2012 - 08:16

      I was appalled to hear R/Adm Gardam's comments on the decision-making process and the apparent lie about a long-standing protocol that nobody else seems to be aware of. The listening to the recordings of the conversation with senior military officer as he seemed to be creating excuses for sending resources at the earliest point possible. These military hacks need to be given a wake-up call, I say thatthe minister of justice ask the RCMP to investigate the senior military personnel with criminal negligence causing death. A brave young boy was lost on the ice, at night in freezing temperatures and ultimately his life was lost as these pontificating _insert own expletive_ sat comfortably in their homes. For those that believe in heaven and hell, I trust that Burton will be sitting comfortably in God's care as those who sat by and refused to do anything to help (until the threat of media attention loomed) are marched into hell's fury.

  • Charles
    May 08, 2012 - 07:28

    Sorry... if I was the Minister of Justice...I know what i would be doing...Law was broken...And someone will have to be held responsible for it...To make sure this kind of thing will never happen again...Far as I'm concern...If the law was enforce...This young man would be here today..

  • c
    May 08, 2012 - 07:21

    There is an awful lot of finger pointing going on here and after listening to the tapes on CBC last night I think that the military doe doe bird from Halifax who had no idea as to even if it was dark in the area at the time and then himmed and hawed over sending anyone should be demoted to military janitor. If this is the same guy who held the press conference saying that he didn't send help because it may have been needed elsewhere then this guy has the wrong job with the military. To my civilian recollection, search and rescue the title itself is self explanatory. this guy is obviously not familiar with our weather and land and IF he is, he could have fooled me. When someone is in dire need of help and you take 24 to 48 hours to finally make the decision because you may be needed somewhere else then you definitely should not be in a uniform in the decision making position,I hope everyone finds their answers, justice is done and there is finally closure for this poor little boy and his family.