Lake Ontario

SAR techs to the rescue

Since 1944, Canada’s elite SAR techs have been saving people in trouble

By Bruce Campion-Smith, The Toronto Sun, Transportation reporter
Sunday, April 14,1996, Section E
North Bay, Ont.

AIR SARTalk to any SAR tech and each has his own tale, the one call that sticks out. Master Corp. Dan Lamoureux, Royal Canadian Air Force recalls a call in northern Quebec that still sends shivers up his spine:

A man was cleaning his shotgun when it suddenly discharged, nearly severing his leg. In this remote corner of Quebec there is no such thing as 911. The nearest phone is four hours away. Two of his friends went for help and the call came through to the rescue co-ordination centre in Trenton.

Lamourexand a fellow SAR tech were dispatched to his aid.  They arrived overhead in a Hercules transport plane at 2 a.m. A small bonfire on the ground marked the area of the victim’s cabin, which was surrounded by fores. There wasn’t light tp be seen.

The weather worsening, the team decided to make the jump into what appeared a nearby lake, using flares to illuminate the drop zone.

During the descend, Lamoureux was enveloped by cloud. Flying blind, he could only guess as he steered his chute hoping to avoid a crippling drop into the trees.

Remarkably, both jumpers landed safely, tended to the victim and hoisted him into a Labrador helicopter for the trip to the hospital, where doctors were able to save his leg.

A few days later, the chopper crew returned to the jump side to retrieve some gear. What they saw left the SAR teachs in a cold sweat.

The “lake” was in fact a swamp, dotted with “death-heads” – dead trees. Only luck prevented the two jumpers from being impaled.

“We were so lucky,” Lamoureux says.

He tells the tale in a quite, soft-spoken voice that masks the real dangers and risks of the rescue.

“The ral dangerous parts of our job were practise a lot to minimize the risk, like the parachuting and the diving and the hoisting,” says Master Warrant Officer Arnie Macauley, who heads Trenton’s cadre of 23 SAR techs.