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Tragic end to search

John Thompson
Northern News Services

Iqaluit (May 16/05) - One missing man perished and another survived after being stranded on the land for four nights with few supplies.

Their discovery marked the end of one of Iqaluit's largest search and rescue operations in the last decade.

Gary Crowe was part of a search and rescue team in Iqaluit that was looking for two men who were lost on the land for four days. One man, 27-year-old Todd Reid, died. The other, 33-year-old Edward Norman was found after he had walked for 20 hours. - John Thompson/NNSL photo

On Thursday afternoon a snowmobile team discovered fresh footprints about 30 kilometres northwest of Iqaluit. They followed them to find Edward Norman, 33, trekking alone towards town.

Exhausted, he insisted that the team continue searching for his friend, Todd Reid, 27. Reid had been left inside a snow hut about 15 kilometres back because he could walk no further. When they arrived, it was too late to save the man.

"There was no pulse," said Cpl. Jimmy Akavak, who helped organize the rescue operation. Reid is survived by a common-law partner and family back in Newfoundland, where both men are from.

The men left Iqaluit on Sunday, May 8, with few supplies and without announcing their destination. Trouble began when they ran out of fuel at Grinnell Lake.

The search operation began early Monday morning and continued for four days, drawing dozens of volunteers who took time off to help.

"I'd want someone to look for me. I Ski-Doo lots," said Darren Molloy, one of about 60 volunteers who headed out on the land on Wednesday.

Others answered phones, offered spare snowmachines and qamutiks or dropped by with freshly baked bannock and other food to help fuel the search.

Local businesses chipped in with donations of food and a fuel truck, which was on permanent stand-by to fill their barrels at a moment's notice. By day four, 35 drums, or 1,750 gallons of fuel, had been emptied.

"Community support has been incredible at this point," said Akavak during the search. Afterwards he said organizers felt bittersweet: happy one survived, but sad that the other was lost. The search concentrated on the trails to Kimmirut and Panniqtuuq, as well as other popular sites, like Grinnell Lake. But with no indication which direction the men were headed, the search operation had few leads to follow.

"It makes it that much harder when we don't have a general area," Akavak said.

A snowstorm on Monday grounded search planes, but later in the week a Twin Otter and Hercules aircraft flew circuits over the Meta Incognita peninsula to aid in the search. Snowmobilers fanned across the land, armed with brooms to sweep snow from paths to help identify the missing men's trail.

Urge to live

Reg Wynes, a friend of Norman who considers him "like a brother," said he was relieved, but not surprised, to hear he had survived.

"He's just got that urge to live. He's a fighter," he said. "I was so happy."

Norman was released from the hospital shortly after his return. Later that evening, Wynes caught up with him during an emotional visit as they reminisced about old times.

On Friday, Norman's brother said he was too overwhelmed by the experience to speak about it yet, but he's glad Norman made it back.