Marching for Burton Winters

Colin MacLean
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Family, supporters of teen who died on Labrador ice demand inquiry

Right, Winters-Fost (left) and Elsie Johnson share an embrace. — Photo by Colin MacLean/The Telegram

As his great-aunt spoke with The Telegram Saturday, 10-month-old Elliott Jacque stared with utter fascination at the voice recorder held tantalizingly close to his chubby cheeks.

Elliott is the brother of Burton Winters, the 14-year-old Mak-kovik, Labrador, teen whose lonely death on Labrador sea ice has resonated across the country.

Bundled against the chill, cradled in his loved ones’ arms and engrossed in the fascinating object before him, Elliott was blissfully unaware of the emotions running just under the surface of those crowded around him.

There was a lot of hugging, handshakes and more than a few tears shed as 50 or so people gathered at the aptly named Burton’s Pond on Memorial University’s St. John’s campus Saturday.  

They had come for a march down some of the city’s main streets in support of Burton’s family and to demand greater search and rescue capabilities for Labrador.

Many insisted a public inquiry is needed into the boy’s death.

Wayne Norman of St. John’s said he joined the march because Burton’s death has become a political football and it’s time for it to stop.

“I’ve watched this unfold now ... and you know sadly it’s become a media circus,” said Norman.

“Where you get so many questions on so many levels, including the federal government, I believe the only way to resolve it is through an inquiry.”

“This means a lot to me, to try and get an independent inquiry,” agreed Elsie Johnson.

Johnson drove from Little Catalina for the walk.

She said a public inquiry is the only way Burton’s family can get some sense of satisfaction.

“The family needs to know why things went so so wrong when the call was made for search and rescue to come and help. They need to have some closure,” she said.

Johnson also got a sharp look in her eyes when she talked about the handling of Burton’s death — politically and from a search and rescue standpoint.

Everyone “dropped the ball,” she said. “There are so many adjectives I could use — none of them good.”

Saturday’s walk in St. John’s, organized by Holly Miller, was only one of several that were held in communities across Newfoundland and Labrador that day. All were in Burton’s name.

The teenager at the centre of this maelstrom of emotions, died in late January when he got lost on sea ice and his snowmobile broke down. He walked for 19 kilometres before freezing to death.

Questions about the handling of the case by the military have been ongoing since the teen’s body was recovered. The issue has been debated in both the House of Assembly and Parliament.

Many of those questions have centered on the delay in response from the Department of National Defence after the initial call for help went out when Burton disappeared.

Burton’s family has been calling for months for an independent inquiry and they renewed that call Saturday.

His father, Rodney Jacque, step-mom Natalie Jacque and Elliott led the procession of people as they marched down the Allandale Road sidewalk.

They are forever grateful for the amount of public support they’ve been getting through this whole ordeal, said Natalie.

 “It’s nice to see so much support here. It kind of helps us a lot to get that support and to feel it,” she said.

Burton’s grandmother, Charlotte Winters-Fost, called Saturday’s event an emotional experience.  

“We’ve had nothing but great support from all across the province. That extended far beyond the community of Makkovik ... and this is just another example of that support that we’ve been getting and are continuing to get,” said Winters-Fost.

But she also referenced last week’s event between her and Premier Kathy Dunderdale.

Dunderdale had agreed to meet with Winters-Fost to talk about the case, but called off the meeting after the family requested to have a retired search and rescue co-ordinator attend as well.

“It’s been a difficult week,” said Winters-Fost.

“I personally had put a lot of faith in this meeting and had some hopes that maybe things were going to get done and we were going to make some headway. But it’s just another slap in the face and it’s another thing we have to recover from, collect ourselves and figure out where we go from here,” she said.

Dunderdale has stated she is happy to meet with Burton’s family, but that she is not interested in having a “mini-inquiry” in her office.

While the premier has also raised questions about the DND’s response to the case, she has said the province has no authority to call for an inquiry because DND is a federal responsibility.  

Burton’s family has never agreed with that reasoning.

Just before the group of marchers set out for their walk, mirroring the 19 kilometres Burton walked before he died, Natalie addressed everyone.

She thanked them for their support and asked that they continue to stand with her family in calling for an inquiry.

“There are simply way to many questions left unanswered and it’s gone on for far too long ... we will not give up until a joint inquiry is called,” she said.

cmaclean@thetelegram.com Twitter: @TelegramMacLean

Organizations: Department of National Defence

Geographic location: Newfoundland and Labrador, Allandale Road, Makkovik

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  • ThelmaLEWIS
    September 10, 2013 - 07:20

    Cars and houses are not very cheap and not everybody can buy it. But, credit loans are created to support different people in such kind of cases.

  • Glenn
    May 15, 2012 - 21:04

    Yes it has been nearly four months..and the parents are still greiving.four months,,,,,, compared to 14 years with their son.. how can people be so insensitive. He is resting in peace. The plane that found the ski-doo on late Tuesday could have been sent on early Monday and the the ski-doo may have been found then and his track followed.. I truly believe they would have found him alive but instead there was miscommunication and disagreements in who's responsibility it was. which caused many many delays..a boy is lost in -30 temperatures and they do not see the need to send search and rescue. This is a fight for all Nfld and Labradorians.. to fix a system that failed Burton. And Burton does not have a grandmother in Goose Bay..he was on this way to his Grandmother's who lives in Makkovik..the legal age is 13 years old to drive a snowmobile. He was 14 years old..he went for ten minute ride en route to his Grandmothers.Many of us sometimes go out on Makkovik Harbour to get to other places in Town..this is what he did,and took a wrong turn.

  • Harold
    May 15, 2012 - 12:06

    ASH you have no idea what you're talking about. shame on you and others for putting the blame on a 14 year old boy and his family simply because he was on a snowmobile and got lost. some of the posters here have no feelings toward others, no common sense and condem because others condem. so what if Burton was alone on a snowmobile. so what if his parents allowed him to be on a snowmobile. so what if it was night or day, or saturday or monday for that matter... the fact is that a person was lost. the community was out searching and doing their best but calls to SAR and other agencies, so it seems, fell on deaf ears. to the helicopter pilot and company who did search for this lost boy, to them i say " Thank you". many people accross this country have questions concerning this incident but the authorities in charge are refusing to provide the answers. I want to know what went wrong and maybe we can prevent it from ever happening again. an inquiry can answer all our questions. although some people think they already know what happened and why.

  • Ash
    May 15, 2012 - 08:38

    Maybe I am overprotective, but I can guarantee you no child of mine would be out on a skidoo alone at night in those conditions. I grieve for the loss of Burton, but I am tired of people defending this by saying it is a way of life in Labrador. Are they above all the laws? If so, this is the type of tragedy that occurs when laws are not followed.

    • Marilyn Hynes
      May 15, 2012 - 21:15

      Perhaps an INQUIRY would determine if 14 is an appropiate age to operate a snowmobile in our province. Please read the info. posted below as this is current up to date rules for operating a Snowmobile! Reguardless, his age should not dis qualify him from having appropiate Search and Rescue on his behalf! Age of operators 8. (1) For the purpose of paragraph 21(1)(l) of the Act (a) a person under the age of 13 years shall not drive a motorized snow vehicle; and (b) no one shall cause or permit a person under the age of 13 years to drive a motorized snow vehicle, unless the person is accompanied by another person who is 19 years of age or older. (2) A person under the age of 16 years shall not operate an all-terrain vehicle in the province. (3) Subsection (2) shall not apply to a person who has attained the age of 14 years and is operating an all-terrain vehicle having an engine size of 90cc or less. (4) A person who operates an all-terrain vehicle under subsection (3) shall not operate that vehicle unless he or she is accompanied and supervised by a person who is 19 years of age or older. (5) For the purposes of this section an operator of a vehicle is accompanied and supervised when the other person has visual and voice communication with the operator

  • Ed
    May 14, 2012 - 20:57

    There is enough blame here for everyone involved. This 14 year old kid should not have been allowed to be out there in control of any sort of ATV or snowmobile by himself. That is a family issue. But given that he was, the search and rescue response should have been adequate to the situation which it seems not to have been. To be complete any investigation as to what went wrong should include consideration of all areas of responsibility including the family's. This brings back memories of children in our neighborhood who used to play street hockey about 150 feet from an intersection that was the only entrance / exit to the subdivision. After watching them for a while and seeing a couple of close calls with cars turning into subdivision I had an opportunity to speak to the parent of two of the boys. He had seen at least one of the cars that I was talking about but his reaction was that the driver should not have been taking the turn so fast. I agreed - but his kids were still playing street hockey in the road as we talked and I wondered to myself, who would be more to blame if the next car hit one of those children, the driver who was not taking proper care or the parent who saw the potential danger and allowed his children to stay there?

  • Ben
    May 14, 2012 - 14:10

    Enough politicizing with this poor boy. Let him rest in peace. To me this meeting with the Premier was becoming more of a media circus than anything else. I can't blame her for not becoming involved in that. Thats why there are Ministers in the government, to deal with the departments. We all know where this is stemming from...time for the Liberals to stop trying to get points with the voters by using a young boy. Shame on them.

  • Do the Math
    May 14, 2012 - 11:09

    anither thought...if my child left my house saying he was running away and going to his grandmother's in Goose Bay, I would have called his grandmother early to make sure he wasnt really trying to drive a skidoo to Goose bay, not wait until dark and then look for him.....theres lots of blame to go around so don't go making this a anti government thing. I am sure MHA from there knows more than he is telling .....BUT if it makes the PC government look bad than why tell the truth, I am sure his cousin coukld tell you too that he left to go to Goose bay so thereforte he didnt take a wrong turn......I feel sorry for the family who lost their child why keep blaming government grieve for him and let him RIP

    • Marilyn
      May 15, 2012 - 19:56

      Goose Bay is not located East of Makkovik. Winters body was located East of Makkovik on the sea ice. If he was attempting to go to Goose Bay he more than likely would have went inland! Do you know this for certain or is this just speculation on your part? If this is speculation it is in very poor taste! This type of comment just further proves that an INQUIRY is needed!

  • Harold
    May 14, 2012 - 10:39

    CONSOLIDATED NEWFOUNDLAND AND LABRADOR REGULATION 1163/96 Motorized Snow Vehicles and All-Terrain Vehicles Regulations under the Motorized Snow Vehicles and All-Terrain Vehicles Act (O.C. 96-240) Amended by: 55/98 79/99 25/01 2001 c42 s45 141/03 154/04 59/05 CONSOLIDATED NEWFOUNDLAND AND LABRADOR REGULATION 1163/96 Motorized Snow Vehicles and All-Terrain Vehicles Regulations under the Motorized Snow Vehicles and All-Terrain Vehicles Act (O.C. 96-240) Under the authority of section 21 of the Motorized Snow Vehicles and All-Terrain Vehicles Act and the Subordinate Legislation Revision and Consolidation Act , the Lieutenant-Governor in Council makes the following regulations. Age of operators 8. (1) For the purpose of paragraph 21(1)(l) of the Act (a) a person under the age of 13 years shall not drive a motorized snow vehicle; and (b) no one shall cause or permit a person under the age of 13 years to drive a motorized snow vehicle, unless the person is accompanied by another person who is 19 years of age or older. (2) A person under the age of 16 years shall not operate an all-terrain vehicle in the province. (3) Subsection (2) shall not apply to a person who has attained the age of 14 years and is operating an all-terrain vehicle having an engine size of 90cc or less. (4) A person who operates an all-terrain vehicle under subsection (3) shall not operate that vehicle unless he or she is accompanied and supervised by a person who is 19 years of age or older. (5) For the purposes of this section an operator of a vehicle is accompanied and supervised when the other person has visual and voice communication with the operator. 131/78 s13; 134/87 s4; 59/05 s4 those regulations have been posted here on this site before for anyone who thinks it was illegal for Burton Winters or anyone else who was or is 14 years of age to to be in control, drive , operate a snowmobile in the province of Newfoundland Labrador. do not confuse snowmobile use with ATV use when dealing with age restrictions.

    • Anonymous
      May 14, 2012 - 11:12

      Harold: No it might not be illegal, however, a 14 year old MUST NOT be unattended while operating a snowmobile . http://www.destinationlabrador.com/guide/snowmobile_rules_and_regulations.htm Drivers •If you are over the age of sixteen (16) you can operate a snowmobile without supervision. •If you are between the ages of thirteen (13) and sixteen (16), you must be accompanied by a person who is nineteen (19) years of age or older. •The owner of a snowmobile shall not knowingly permit the snowmobile to be operated by an unsupervised person under sixteen (16) years of age. A 14 year old should not be driving a snowmobile unattended. Period.

  • Wendy
    May 14, 2012 - 08:57

    Before this "Thread" goes any further, please remember, everyone, that there is a family who is still in the early stages of the grieving process, even more difficult in this particular situation. Please don't attack them. In your minds, put yourselves in their shoes.

    • RIP
      May 14, 2012 - 10:16

      With all due respect, I don't believe anyone here is trying to offend this family through grieving process, god knows I know how hard it is to grieve over a lost loved one. However, they cannot lay all the blame solely on the government. There are laws in place for a reason against the underage use of recreational vehicles and that is to protect children. People are simply asking that this boy rest in peace, not attacting the family.

  • Mondayagain...
    May 14, 2012 - 08:38

    Ok people, it's time to just let this boy rest in peace. This boy should NEVER have been riding that ski doo unattended in the first place. I don't care if this is in Labrador or China, makes no difference. It is against the law for any minor under the age of 16 to ride any snowmobile or ATV without proper supervision.

  • Peggy
    May 14, 2012 - 07:59

    Do the Math.....This tragic death is hard enough on the family, friends, and community, and even the whole Province, let alone you "insinuating" that the Media is over-exaggerating the situation. No matter how far Burton walked, he did not receive any recovery help soon enough, and froze to death all alone. You are just adding more agony to the family's extreme grief.

  • time to let him rest in peace
    May 14, 2012 - 07:54

    let this go, its time, nothing is going to bring him back,,,, its not just the governments fault, i know that it is common practice for the area they live to let a 14 yr old to go out on a adult skidoo by himself, but it is still illegal, so the family and the community as a whole should share the responsibility as well as sar....

    • marlene
      May 14, 2012 - 08:28

      I so agree with you. The child is gone and nothing said or done will bring him back. Yes the search was handled poorly but i had the same thought when the child went missing. What the hell was a child doing out alone at night or near night with a skidoo. It may be the way of life for that community but it should not be for a child. Maybe now not so many kids will be let go free before another tragedy happens. But once again he is gone so let the child rest in peace.

    • Marilyn Hynes
      May 15, 2012 - 20:13

      In response to: Time to Let him rest in peace....Bottom line: The System FAILED BURTON WINTERS! The family is asking for an Inquiry. An INQUIRY is necessary to clarify all the mis information being thrown around.

  • DO the Math
    May 14, 2012 - 07:38

    I don't understand why media reports that Burton walked 19 kilometres. According to the news reports, the skidoo was found 12 kilometres from the community stuck in the snow and Burton's body was found 7 kilometres from this stuck skidoo. That means Burton was 19 kms from the community. He drove 12 and WALKED 7 km. If according to the news wedia, if he drove 12 kms were the skidoo was found and than walked 19 kms from the skidoo, his body would have beem 31 kms from the community. If the news media can play us believe that he walked 19 kms, what else are they making us believe

    • Carol Ann Rogers
      May 14, 2012 - 08:25

      "Do the math" Now I've heard of sensitivity training, but your comment takes the cake. The boy is no longer with us regardless if somone with the press is not so great with math problems. The precise distance is irrevelant unless you are collecting data for how far a 14 year old boy should walk before surcoming to exposure in freezing temperatures. You need to check your empathy meter not your TI83 calculator. He walked too far is that correct enough for you.

    • Marilyn
      May 15, 2012 - 19:41

      For Marlene and Do The Math...your post is irrevelant! A boy was lost and the system failed him! Would not make any difference if this human was 50 years old! The system failed him! Stop playing the Blame Game & Wake up! Why don't you both consider using your time to support the efforts of others in asking for improvements in our SAR System?