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Young hunters survive snowmobile accident
Poor ice conditions and inexperience to blame

Emily Ridlington
Northern News Services
Published Thursday, March 24, 2011

KANGIQTUGAAPIK/CLYDE RIVER - Two young hunters had to be rescued near the floe edge outside of the community because they went out on thin ice and it gave way on March 16.

"We were very lucky to have someone pass by there with all the gear and equipment they needed to build a shelter," said Seetee Paniloo, chair of the search and rescue committee.

He said he got a call at about 6:35 p.m. saying two polar bear hunters were in trouble.

Approximately 30 kilometres south east of town near Cape Christian, assistant senior administrative officer Steven Aipellee said two men had been seal hunting.

He said they were packing up their gear and saw a man running in their direction waving. His Ski-Doo had gone through the ice and still had the qamutiik tied on. The man was wet but was never completely submerged.

Joined by Mayor Apiusie Apak, the two seal hunters found the other polar bear hunter still in the water.

Aipellee said the man had tried to get out of the water and had again fallen in three more times.

Apak and the seal hunters sent up a tent, kept the polar bear hunters warm and got them changes of clothes.

"The mayor's actions and that of the other good Samaritans very probably saved the young man's life," stated Troy Jenkins, hamlet SAO in a press release.

Apak used a SPOT device he was carrying with him to notify the search and rescue committee, known as SAR. The polar bear hunters, both in their 20s, did not have a SPOT device or satellite phone.

Once back in Clyde, the hunter who fell in the water went to the health centre for a check-up. He did not sustain any injuries.

Aipellee and Paniloo both said it is important, especially at this time of year, to be aware of the ice conditions.

"They thought the area was safe because they saw tracks," Aipellee said.

This winter, he said there have been cracks in the ice that close when it gets colder and then open up again when it gets warmer and or is windier.

The pair also said the young hunters were inexperienced.

"They don't really hunt and a lot of people just go hunting whenever there is quota available," Paniloo said.

He could not praise his committee of volunteers enough for their hard work. Jenkins also praised the SAR committee.

Based at the hamlet office, he said he put out a call for volunteers and got a response immediately.

In total, 10 people were involved with several aspects of the rescue whether staffing the office, preparing equipment or venturing out on the land.

He recommends, even if one is just going out for a trip, to bring extra clothing and a tent or equipment to build a shelter. In addition he recommends everyone carry a SPOT device as he and his team were immediately able to identify where they had to go.

This message was shared with residents on the local radio to help raise awareness and in hopes to make sure something like this does not happen again.

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