CFB Trenton airman dies in rescue mission in Nunavut
Published Friday, October 28, 2011 10:35PM EDT
The rescue crew dropped a radio to the boaters but the health of one of the men was deteriorating. When communication on the radio was lost, Gilbert and two other rescue technicians parachuted into the water to help.
A search and rescue technician has died trying to save a pair of stranded boaters in Nunavut, but the circumstances of his death remain a mystery.
Sgt. Janick Gilbert, who was based at Canadian Forces Base Trenton, died Thursday about 25 kilometres east of Igloolik. His age and hometown have not yet been released.
Gilbert had been sent on a mission along with two other search and rescue technicians to help rescue two men in an open boat who had run into trouble in stormy waters in the Hecla Strait. Community residents in two other boats had tried to rescue the men, but couldn't reach them.
Gilbert and the other two rescuers parachuted into icy waters from a C-130 Hercules military aircraft. All five men then waited three hours for a Cormorant helicopter to arrive from CFB Gander in Newfoundland to pick them up.
Gilbert died before the chopper arrived, but how he died has not been released. It's unclear if Gilbert was injured or if the men were waiting for help in the water.
The two other rescue technicians and the two men rescued from the boat were taken to Igloolik.
The rescue mission was co-ordinated by the base in Trenton, but also included rescue crews from bases in Gander, N.L., Greenwood, N.S. and Winnipeg. A Canadian Coast Guard ship from Iqaluit was also dispatched.
Trenton's base commander Col. Sean Friday said Gilbert will be missed.
"Janick will always be remembered as a respected family member of 8 Wing who was committed to helping people in need," he said. "At this most sorrowful time, our thoughts and prayers are with his family and his many friends."
Lt.-Gen. Andre Deschamps, commander of the Royal Canadian Air force, also offered his sympathies to Gilbert's family and comrades.
"He lost his life in the service of his country while unselfishly answering the call for help," said Deschamps.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper offered his condolences as well.
"Canada's landscape is one of the most challenging in the world in which to conduct search and rescue operations, and the area in which search and rescue professionals work is the largest in the world – it extends over 15 million square kilometres of land and sea and encompasses the world's longest coastline.
"The Canadian Armed Forces' search and rescue technicians are some of the best trained in the world, and have saved thousands of lives nationwide.
"Sgt. Gilbert was an extremely brave Canadian who made the ultimate sacrifice while proudly serving his country."
Gov. Gen. David Johnston also expressed sadness over Gilbert's death.
"He has demonstrated tremendous courage in circumstances of great peril. His sacrifice will not be in vain; we will be forever grateful to him," Johnston said.
"On behalf of all Canadians, we offer our sincerest condolences to the family, loved ones and colleagues of Sergeant Gilbert. Our thoughts and prayers are with you."
With reports from The Canadian Press