Military Search and Rescue Protocol Changed Following Fatality

March 14, 2012 Updated: March 14, 2012

The Canadian Forces has reviewed and bolstered its search and rescue protocol following the tragic death of a teenage snowmobiler in Labrador earlier this year.

The military came under pressure for its slow response in rescuing 14-year-old Burton Winters who was found dead three days after he was reported missing. Winters had abandoned his snowmobile after it broke down and walked close to 20 kilometres.

When Winters was first reported missing and the military was called in to help, it initially couldn’t send helicopters to aid in the search due to weather and mechanical problems.

The military didn’t send the helicopters until receiving another request, by which time two crucial days had passed since Winters had gone missing.

“The legal authority for Ground Search and Rescue (GSAR), including the response for missing or lost persons, belongs to provincial and territorial governments, and as such, the Canadian Forces reviewed its protocols in consultation with partner agencies,” the Canadian Forces said in a statement.

The review was conducted at the request of Defence Minister Peter MacKay.

The amended protocol implements a feedback mechanism between the Forces and the provincial agency requesting help as an “additional layer of diligence.”

“When calls come in, a file would be opened on the search and rescue, and the Canadian Forces wouldn’t necessarily be the lead, it would be whatever organization has the lead calling the Canadian forces,” spokesperson Major Dave Devenney told The Epoch Times.

With the revamped protocol, “there’s going to be a call-back process in place, so at the end of the day, before we close that file, we’ll get in touch with those organizations that have ongoing search and rescues to make sure that everything is in hand,” Devenney said.

MacKay said he is “pleased” with the military’s review of its protocol and the improvement made to the process.

“The adoption of these new protocols is a demonstration of our continuing commitment, along with our federal and provincial partners, to ensure that we can collectively provide one of the best Search and Rescue systems in the world,” he said in a statement.

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