Stranded seal hunters save pilot who tried to rescue them
Published Wednesday, January 9, 2013 2:43PM EST
Last Updated Wednesday, January 9, 2013 9:52PM EST
Two seal hunters stranded on an ice floe in Hudson Bay ended up becoming rescuers when a chartered helicopter coming to their aid broke through the ice Wednesday.
A spokesperson for the Canadian Forces, Maj. Isabelle Robitaille, said the helicopter landed on the sea ice during an operation to retrieve the hunters, but its weight caused the floe to break.
The father and son who were on a hunting trip on the west shore of Hudson Bay were making their way to the rescue aircraft, and managed to pull the sole occupant, the pilot, from the downed helicopter in frigid waters.
The helicopter was a Bell Jet Ranger from Customs Helicopter in Gillam, Manitoba.
“It was a chartered aircraft that was contracted by the Canadian Forces as part of a larger effort that was coordinated through the Joint Rescue Coordination Centre,” Robitaille said.
Search-and-rescue personnel already on the scene in a hovering Hercules Helicopter parachuted to the ice below to assist.
The hunters, pilot and rescuers were then transported to Arviat, Nunavut on a Griffon Helicopter that flew in from Cold Lake, Alta. The hunters and the pilot were being treated for hypothermia, the RCMP confirmed. There were no severe injuries. Officials say the temperature felt like -40C with the wind chill at the time of the rescue.
A family member identified the hunters as Joe Karetak and his son, Joe Jr.
Karetak’s sister Charlotte St. John said her uncle went to look for the pair and came across their abandoned snowmobile and sled. Their small boat was gone.
At first, search teams attempted to get the men by boat, but weather conditions made the rescue difficult, St. John said.
“There’s a lot of slush and the boats – they’d been trying all day to get to them. Their engines freeze up.”
The military is not involved in the recovery of the submerged aircraft at this point, Robitaille said.
Initial reports referred to authorities saying the helicopter had crashed with the stranded hunters on board.
With a report from CTV Edmonton and files from The Canadian Press