One year after the death of Labrador teen Burton Winters, Liberal MHA Randy Edmunds says a lot of good has happened, but if more isn’t done, another similar tragedy could happen again.
“We’ve got to find out what went wrong. I mean, inquiries have been called for far less situations than what happened with Burton,” Edmunds said.
“You’ve got to find out what went wrong. For one reason, if not any other, it’s to fix what went wrong. I don’t like to see governments blaming each other and the issue not being addressed,” Edmunds said.
On Jan. 29. 2012, Burton’s body was found on the sea ice off Makkovik. He got lost on his snowmobile three days earlier, and tried to walk home.
Confused, in a snowstorm, he walked 19 kilometres in the wrong direction before he froze to death.
In the months after his death, questions were raised about why the Canadian Forces failed to send a helicopter to search for the teen.
Edmunds, who lives in Makk-ovik, was heavily involved in the search for Burton, and was one of the politicians who was forcefully calling for an inquiry into his death.
He said that the same search and rescue protocols that resulted in no Canadian Forces helicopter showing up, and led to the tragedy a year ago, are still in place today.
“If there’s another scenario that develops, another tragedy, are they going to follow existing protocols? Are we going to go through listening to excuses from DND again? Are we going to have to go through the province and the federal government throwing blame back and forth? “ Edmunds asked.
“These are the questions that certainly we’re asking one year later.”
For the moment, he said, if someone else is lost a chopper would show up, but that won’t necessarily always be the case.
“Right now it’s so much in the eye of everybody in the country, that when they’re called, they will come,” he said. “This is because of the attention this got, and I think as time goes on, you can almost see it going back to the way it was before Burton went missing.”
Edmunds did say that some positive developments have come as a result of the tragedy; there’s now a third Griffin helicopter at the Goose Bay Canadian Forces base.
Search and rescue groups also have infrared equipment to aid in searching, and other measures.
Edmunds said there’s also more awareness.
“We’ve seen some additions. We’ve seen some equipment in the community,” he said. “Whenever there’s a tragedy of this magnitude, there’s always an awareness issue, and people talk to their kids about snowmobiling and about weather, and that’s an evolving process.”
But Edmunds said one year later, he also remembers how the community came together during the tragedy, and the outpouring of support.
“The thing that impacted me the most was a vigil that was held in Makkovik just a few days after. I don’t think there were very many people left in the community; everyone just gathered out on the harbor, and it was such a moving experience,” he said. “You saw Labrador come together as a region; you saw Newfoundland and Labrador come together as a province.”