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Coroner calls for 911 and better cell service

Report into death last December of Freda Hope

Dawn Ostrem
Northern News Services

Yellowknife (Sep 24/01) - Extended cellular phone service outside Yellowknife and 911 service in the city area have been recommended by Northwest Territories Chief Coroner Percy Kinney.

Percy Kinney

In a report on the death of Freda Hope last year, Kinney called for the currently non-existent measures.

"In the area where the deceased's snow machine broke through the ice is a chronically dangerous area," Kinney wrote in the report.

Hope was snowmobiling with her common-law husband on Prosperous Lake near Yellowknife last Dec. 2, when she crashed through the slushy ice.

She struggled out of the frigid water and walked nearly a kilometre toward some cabins. When emergency workers found her the next day she was just outside the shelters, frozen.

Before Hope's machine went through, her partner, who was travelling some distance ahead of her, crashed into a rock and suffered serious injuries.

Another snowmobiler found him, alerted a man driving a truck and they loaded him in it.

"En route to the hospital the driver attempted to dial 911," Kinney explained. "(He) was not aware that Yellowknife did not have 911 service."

Also, "garbled" communication with emergency workers had them initially appearing at the wrong scene to search for Hope.

The search was postponed after enough time passed for hope that she was alive to diminish. The next day her machine was found as well as articles of clothing near the scene of the accident.

Her frozen gloves were located further away so emergency workers were clued into the fact that she had surfaced. Wind had swept away her tracks on the snow-covered ice.

Kinney also recommended continuous upgrading to a safety Web site and a coast guard safety marketing campaign.