Burton Winters’ mother breaks her silence

Jamie Lewis
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Says her son’s death deserves an inquiry

Burton Winters’ mother, Paulette Winters-Rice, acknowledges there is a rift between her family and her late son’s other parents, but they all agree on the necessity of an inquiry into the 14-year-old’s death on the ice off Makkovik.

In an exclusive interview, she spoke recently about the devastating loss, and of how she and her husband, Steven Rice, and their children have had to endure knowing that Burton will never come home.

“Every day always seems like (Jan. 29), the night he went missing,” said Winters-Rice, choking back tears.

“We do not even know how to deal with it,” added Rice.

In addition to his brother, 10-month-old Elliott Jacque, Burton has a brother, 11-year-old Gage, and a sister, 10-year-old Marissa, the children of Rice and Winters-Rice.

Rice said since Burton’s death, he has been calling Labrador MP Peter Penashue’s office almost daily, trying to arrange a meeting with him and asking him to pressure the government to call an inquiry.

“I have been calling Penashue day after day after day, trying to get a meeting set up. So far nothing has happened,” Rice said.

Winters-Rice said Burton lived with them until he was nine years old, and then he went to live with his father, Rodney Jacque, and stepmom, Natalie Jacque.

Winters-Rice said she wanted to tell Burton’s story because she does not agree with his other family’s approach.

‘Nobody wants to take responsibility for this mistake’ .

“The way I am taking it right now, they are pulling Burton into everything,” Winters-Rice said. “I think they should be letting him rest. I don’t mind that they are going after (improved search and rescue) for Labrador, but … they don’t need to keep dragging him back into the picture.”

She remembers her son as an avid fisherman who loved camping and was very accepting of others.

He also loved books, and Winters-Rice says she used to read to him every night and that by the age of one, he was reading on his own.

Burton was also learning to speak his people’s native tongue and would often speak it with his grandfather, Willie Winters.

On the night he went missing, Winters-Rice says her aunt came to her house after her sister had seen a missing alert posted on Facebook.

“At the time, we were not even sure it was my son, so I called my mom and she was trying to find out if it was Burton,” she recalls.

The day Burton’s body was found, she and her husband were in Makkovik and the RCMP told the families they had found his snowmobile.

“I was right excited, saying, ‘Oh good! They’re going to have him …’ and (then the RCMP) left,” Winters-Rice said.

She says about two minutes later, the RCMP returned and she figured they would have Burton with them. She said they came in and it seemed like they stood there forever.

“They were looking at me and not saying anything. Finally they opened their mouth and said they found him, and I was happy. Then they told me it wasn’t good and told me he was gone,” she recalled.

“After hearing that, I fell to the floor. I fell to the floor crying. I could not even breathe. I told them to stop lying to me. I screamed at them to ‘Stop lying to me! Stop  lying to me!’” said Winters-Rice, sobbing.

She asked if she could see her son and was told they had taken him to the hospital.

“We were told they were doing CPR on him for over four hours, and they told us they could keep going. But there is no point. He was not going to come back,” said Winters-Rice.

She feels the government has not been truthful about what really happened.

“(Capt. John Gardham of the Department of National Defence) kept on changing why (the helicopters) never came. Nobody wants to take responsibility for this mistake,” she said.

“If they told the truth from the start, (these calls for an inquiry) would have been avoided.”

Winters-Rice also suspects there wasn’t more effort to find Burton the night he went missing because of his ethnicity.

“I feel that because he was Inuit, it played a role in what happened, and because we are native, they figured, ‘Oh well, they won’t say anything. They’re too quiet,’ because Inuit people are quiet,” she said.

Winters-Rice said every life is important and the government should be accountable for the loss of her son.

“I picture him every day, from the day he was born up to his death. I wish I could hold him and kiss him. … He was so good,” she said.


The Labradorian

Organizations: RCMP, Department of National Defence

Geographic location: Makkovik

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Recent comments

  • steve rice
    May 09, 2015 - 19:54

    I would like for observer and jon smith to come face to face with me and make these comments. What are you people employees of sar... Take that idiots.. And please use your real names not fake ones..

  • Catherine
    March 20, 2015 - 17:55

    We as canadianslost one of our own a beautiful smiling young boy who trusted his community and family.I bet if you ask most canadians to help find Burton they would and so would I if I were his parents I would be out there to find him no matter what.Definitely prevention is key so if snowmobiling is allowed where are the markers to define the limits of the community that is deemed safe and what about signs or arrows to help guide these children from going astray.I once saw a preshool aged girl running frantically and about half a kilometer I saw a women running in opposite directions and I puttwo and two and I reunited them.It is so important to support each other and look out foreach other being a mother of six if I can do it do can anyone else.

  • JMPA
    May 29, 2012 - 23:29

    To all the cold, heartless, negative people making comments....this is a 14 yr old we are talking about in Labrador...not in the city....where people live and behave differently...obviously you haven't raised kids or they must be perfect. Grow up. These grieving parents don't need to judged or accused by you. When you speak negatively that is what you are drawing towards you.....be aware of that.

  • thewholetruth
    May 29, 2012 - 21:43

    old old story. ?..give it up

  • Peggy
    May 29, 2012 - 21:00

    Just look at this precious innocent handsome young teenager. No matter who says what, the bottom line is that the system failed him. I'll keep reminding myself that Burton is in Heaven in the "warmth" of God's arms.

  • Charles
    May 29, 2012 - 17:55

    John Smith and I... don't see eye to eye on many things...This one i have to agree with him...Everyone else is been blame....But the right people..

  • Me
    May 29, 2012 - 16:40

    It's sickening that there was no gov't response to look for this boy, but when McKay calls.....everything is dropped and he gets picked up no problem from his fishing trip. I don't forsee this happening to anyone else, but it should not have happened in the first place. It's sad and I feel for the families involved.

  • Harold
    May 29, 2012 - 16:35

    RIP Burton Winters.. it was not your fault for being an adventureous 14 year old boy. your death was our fault because we failed to help you when we could have made a diffenence. please forgive us Burton.

  • Leona
    May 29, 2012 - 14:37

    Amen Kenk! OBSERVER needs a reality check and certainly doesn't speak for me either! Actually OBSERVER needs to stop speaking period and "move on"

  • KENK
    May 29, 2012 - 14:05

    I have never been more ashamed in my life to be a Newfoundlander. Would you people just for one second pause and consider how you would feel if you had lost a child or any loved one and had to hear the cold, callous, cruel comments that your so called neighbours are saying. The people of Newfoundlander and Labrador that I know and have been proud to be a part of, do not judge those in pain. We are the Province that all Canadians constantly praise because of our ability to unselfishly drop whatever is going on in our lives and help those in need . I am ashamed of the ignorant and heartless accusations of most of these comments..................OBSERVER, YOU DO NOT SPEAK FOR ME AND HOPEFULLY NOT FOR THE MAJORITY OF NEWFOUNDLAND AND LABRADOR........My thoughts and prayers go out to all four of Burton's parents and to all of his siblings and extended family.

  • Leona
    May 29, 2012 - 13:33

    Bravo Kent and Tom! An inquiry needs to be done to "right" this wrong. It doesn't matter WHY he was where he was........the system failed him along with all of Newfoundland and Labrador. For the government to say there will be NO INQUIRY, shouldn't be allowed. If all questions can't be explained within reason, then this should be an automatic inquiry. We all learn from mistakes and this inquiry, should it ever go ahead, may show where the system failed, cause no doubt something failed here. No one is pointing fingers, just fix what is wrong. It may save a life in the future. Danny, where are you??? I can't believe you haven't put in your two cents yet! (not that i've heard)

  • james
    May 29, 2012 - 13:02

    People like John Smith need a reality check. Regardless if the kid or family made an err in judgement about the use of the machine is not at all relevant; what is is the fact that he was there, lost and perished. For the grace of God if anything positive is to come from this is we stop passing the buck and figure out what went wrong and learn from it.

  • tim
    May 29, 2012 - 12:45

    Sam - the premier doesn't wear the tragedy - she wears the fact that she has done nothing to rectify this broken system and demand Ottawa's attention. I imagine Danny, who I was not a big fan of, would have represented us, Burton and his family with the compassion and demand for answers we need. If Burton was a fisherman we would see a different tune I imagine.

  • Jim
    May 29, 2012 - 12:40

    I think if people here are saying that kids should now pay for the misjudgement of their parents, then Newfoundland society has not only turned a sad corner but also is in trouble going forward. He didn't die because his parents let him out (bad judgement yes) he died on the ice because we did not get to him in time. Our premier should be all over the feds to find the flaw in our system and use this to show how SAR needs to stay on our shores. She is not even smart enough to do that.

  • Ron Tizzard
    May 29, 2012 - 12:39

    There was a tragedy, which should not have happened, but it did...maybe, just maybe because of 'cultural permissiveness'; I suggest that,,,not to blame...but to state a 'reality'. In most modern communities, cultures, the boy would not have been out in that weather, and that isolation. I say that, not to blame, but to caution, and wish perhaps that some cultural values change...particularly as they pertain to the health and well-being of the youth. My condolences and best wishes to Burton's family, extended family. I would support the families in their persuit of answers to the non-sense of the Province's non-response (really) to an emergency. The call for help, and the resulting ifs, ands, and buts, excuses...then nothing, screams out for justice...and explanation. The entire episode was an indictment of this province's emergency measures' system. A VERY PUBLIC ENQUIRY IS MOST ABSOLUTELY NECESSARY TO GIVE ETHICAL REASON , NOT POLITICAL REASON AS TO WHY A YOUNG BOY DIED...BECAUSE NOBODY CAME. scream for an enquiry...demand it!.

  • Dwayne Cull
    May 29, 2012 - 12:24

    I can't believe some of the comments here!! Obviously a lot of people are totally out of touch with the wilds of Labrador...and totally fogetting that the poor child got LOST!! Yep in your perfect world everyone does everything right all the time but thats not reality. Reality is that things go wrong sometimes just like in the city when you make a wrong turn and have an accident. YOU expect the Police, Fire Dept, Ambulance and Tow Trucks to respond to your stupid mistake and you expect a doctor to fix you up right away! So what gives you the right to think that Burton winters did not deserve to be found when he took a wrong turn. Some of you are shameful!!!

  • Tom
    May 29, 2012 - 11:16

    I understand people saying he should not have been out there. Granted. But that does not excuse the fact that our system let him down. He got lost and we did not, by our own premier's admission, do everything to save him (cormorant helicopter). Would people's opinion be diferent if he had run away rather than allowed? Our system is supposed to save any one of us in trouble and it failed. We need to know why. My fellow newoundlanders are making me sick with their lack of empathy. What if everyone said the Cougar crash victims knew the risk of flying over the ocean every couple of weeks? It could be any one of our kids and we should all be demanding this system fixed.

  • observer
    May 29, 2012 - 10:14

    That child should not have been out there in the first place. Period. If it's politically incorrect to say the truth about why this happened, then so be it. I think I speak for a majority on this .What parent today allows a chld to walk home alone after dark? Or to be out alone doing something with so much inherent risk without adult supervision?Not in the city they wouldn't and they certainly shouldn't in a hostile place like Labrador in the wintertime. Accept the reality of why this tragedy happened and move on.

    • Kent
      May 29, 2012 - 10:59

      How the boy came to be on the ice and the resulting effort to retrieve him are two separate issues! Blaming the victim? I wouldn't want you on the jury of a rape trial.. You would probably blame the woman for dressing provocatively. You have a poor sense of logic and reason.

  • JB
    May 29, 2012 - 09:52

    if a 13 year old is deemed old enough to operate a snowmobile on their, I just have one question? shouldn't they be old enough to be able to carry a compass, map , flares etc. & if not , there is a responsibility here for the parents to ensure they there children are safe. I'm not saying that it was handled in the best possible way by SAR, but there are also things here that could have been done to help the situation, personnally I would make sure my child is safe,.

  • No Inquiry
    May 29, 2012 - 09:25

    Why should the provincial government and our tax dollars fund an inquiry that is under federal jurisdiction. If people want an inquiry, they should complain and lobby to the Feds, not to our provincial government!

  • Jerome
    May 29, 2012 - 09:17

    After all this time, the Premier has said that there will be NO inquiry. We all have our own thoughts and feelings about this tragedy, as well as this decision. Like it or not, most of us are now trying to let go and allow young Burton to rest in peace. Mrs. Winters-Rice, why.....four months to the very day.....would you finally write this article.....why not much sooner?

  • Shallen
    May 29, 2012 - 09:07

    Yo Momma you said it, I believe in Karma what goes around comes around John buddy ....I dislike when people don't fully know a story yet they will go on and insult...Burton did not set out to go on the sea ice, he lost his direction which led him there and it wasn't dark when he went out as he dropped his younger cousin off in the afternoon, he took a different route home which sadly he didn't make it......as for 14 on a skidoo ....John Smith did you ever actually see winter in Makkovik,Nain and other areas in Labrador how the hell else would you expect the folks to get around.....

  • Jody
    May 29, 2012 - 08:35

    I would like to know as well if there is a law that states a child under a certain age is supposed to be accompanied by an adult when operating a machine like a skidoo. There are laws that prohibit children from driving cars so why wouldn’t it be the same for a skidoo. I am not saying this to be mean or hurt the parents because I feel so sad for the family losing a child at such a young age. If there are no age regulations for operating a machine of this magnitude I think the government needs to look at this tragedy as a good reason why such a law should be in place for children under the age of 16 at least.

    • Frank M
      May 29, 2012 - 08:40

      You can check the provincial regulations for operating a snowmobile by Googling NL Snowmobile Regulations. Both the NL snowmobile association and government legislation appear in the search results. The age to operate a snowmobile unsupervised is 13, and ATV is 16. Bit the debate should not include the boys age. Let's frame it like this: if a 30 year old Mother was snowmobiling, her machine broke down and search and rescue services did not respond would her death be any less tragic than Burton's? OF COURSE NOT. The SAR protocols were flawed and remain flawed. A boy was an unfortunate victiim but it could have been anyone that day.

  • Ask the Obvious Qiestion
    May 29, 2012 - 08:18

    Yes SAR did break down. I have to ask why the media is not asking the most obvious question? Why isn't the media asking the tough question why the child is out there on an adult machine the fist place. If this was a quad the parents would be charged.

    • Frank M
      May 29, 2012 - 08:41

      You can check the provincial regulations for operating a snowmobile by Googling NL Snowmobile Regulations. Both the NL snowmobile association and government legislation appear in the search results. The age to operate a snowmobile unsupervised is 13, and ATV is 16. Bit the debate should not include the boys age. Let's frame it like this: if a 30 year old Mother was snowmobiling, her machine broke down and search and rescue services did not respond would her death be any less tragic than Burton's? OF COURSE NOT. The SAR protocols were flawed and remain flawed. A boy was an unfortunate victiim but it could have been anyone that day.

  • CBSview
    May 29, 2012 - 08:08

    I'm sorry to say that this story has been going on for too long. I don't believe that it's the governments fault. This CHILD should NOT have been out on the ice alone, at night, on the sled. I don't believe that due to his race, the government treated this any different. I feel horrible for the family to loose a child too soon, but you can't blame everything & everyone else. That will not bring Burton back. I see politicians in the news use this story in the house for their own gain, and that is truly sad to see. Changes have been made, new equipment has been added, lets try and move on.

  • kitty
    May 29, 2012 - 07:53

    It is very sad that this young man lost his life. Now is the time to stop blaming......now is the time for all agencies, family, etc. to put their wagging fingers away and sit down to begin discussions as to how such a tragedy could be prevented from ever happening again. THAT is what should be Burton Winters' legacy.......better search and rescue.....NOT candlelight vigils and finger pointing. Let this poor young man rest in peace and let his family grieve......... And, while I feel so badly for Mrs. Winters-Rice.....I wish we could get past the excuse "if he wasn't Inuit, they would have moved faster".........that is becoming very tiresome and you know......it just rankles people to have to listen to this ALL THE TIME. So please.......let this boy rip and allow his family to grieve. And let's get ALL PARTIES to a table to discuss in an intelligent, civilized manner as to how this will never happen again! Isn't this the LEAST we owe Burton Winters??

  • Blair
    May 29, 2012 - 07:30

    As I do not own any type of ATV or snowmobile I am very serious about these question so if anyone knows the answer would they please post it here. Were any regulations violated by the parents in allowing the child to operate the machine alone? If there were violations, what actions were taken? I heard a very upsetting comment on this issue and that was "the parents upon the death of the child immediately went into damage control and blamed everyone but themselves for the tragedy".

    • Edward
      May 29, 2012 - 08:09

      If you have ever been to the coast of Labrador, you will soon come to realize that the same rules and regulations that we apply in our day to day lives do not exist in these places. Go to Hopedale or Nain, not an uncommon site to see someone driving an ATV without a helmet holding a toddler on their lap. I know it's a bit off topic of the story, but just wanted to point that out.

    • Frank M
      May 29, 2012 - 08:15

      You can check the provincial regulations for operating a snowmobile by Googling NL Snowmobile Regulations. Both the NL snowmobile association and government legislation appear in the search results. The age to operate a snowmobile unsupervised is 13, and ATV is 16. Bit the debate should not include the boys age. Let's frame it like this: if a 30 year old Mother was snowbiling, her machine broke down and search and rescue services did not respond would her death be any less tragic than Burton's? OF COURSE NOT. The SAR protocols were flawed and remain flawed. A boy was an unfortunate victiom but it could have been anyone that day.

  • William Daniels
    May 29, 2012 - 06:59

    The Premier's inability to lead was quite evident during this issue. Her decision to not call the inquiry will be her undoing during the next election. Political suicide.

    • Doubt it
      May 29, 2012 - 07:32

      The electorate has proven time after time that it's memory is short and it's vote can be bought.

    • sam
      May 29, 2012 - 08:11

      What additional information do you need? We know the timeline, when calls were made, what resources showed up(and didnt show up), etc. The thing is everyone has to try to learn from mistakes that were made. I don't really think the Premier should have to wear this. If we didnt know all this information there might be grounds for an inquiry, but with an inquiry there might be more come out than the family would want. Considering the letter the mother had in the paper today there are probably some unanswered things there. I know of at least 4 people who have died in this province where resources didnt show up in time, or they have still not found out what happened! And one of these was a 15 year old boy! Should we call an inquiry for each of these. We all have to think logically.

  • John Smith
    May 29, 2012 - 06:41

    So it's the governments fault? The RCMPs fault, search and rescues fault? A 14 year old child is on an adult machine, on sea ice, at night, alone....I think I know where the blame really lays with this one...yet no one will admitt it.

    • yo momma
      May 29, 2012 - 07:21

      John Smith, obvious troll is obvious. You're a pathetic child to troll a story like this. If you're sincere in your comment you are a sad, ignorant, pathetic individual. I hope nothing ever happens to any children you may have because karma is going be looking for you and she carries a big stick.

    • Kent
      May 29, 2012 - 09:00

      How the boy came to be on the ice and the resulting effort to retrieve him are two separate issues. Perhaps if you had a better sense of logic and reason you might be a little further ahead in life, and a little less bitter. Have a nice life.

    • thewhole truth
      May 29, 2012 - 10:03

      Good commentary. The problem is as you say....everyone is afraid to admit it. Not me though.....it is clear where the PRIMARY responsibility lies....family! SAR needs adjustment though.....but then again, SAR wouldnt be required if proper primary controls were in place.It is a wonder that this sort of tragedy does not happen more often. It actuaaly happens too frequently. Nfld kids are using machines on the roads and in many cases illegally. Sad state of mind for parents who allow their children on the roads and highways on these machines.

    • John Smith
      May 29, 2012 - 14:13

      Well...I do have kids...and I can guarantee you that they will not be going out on the Labrador sea, alone, with blowing snow conditions as the sun is about to go down, on a machine built for aldults. I don't give a dam where you live, or what conditions you are used to. I see a lot of blame making the rounds, and some of it may be needed. I don't blame the young man...he is not an adult...he depends upon adults to guide and care for him....where were they?