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Men stranded on ice near Aklavik

Lyndsay Herman
Northern News Services
Published Monday, June 4, 2012

Three men required a helicopter rescue after ice jams left them stranded on the river near the junctions of the Schooner and Aklavik channels.

RCMP were called at 11 a.m. on May 26 after the men failed to arrive in Aklavik almost 30 hours after leaving their camp along the Napoiak Channel.

An RCMP media advisory stated thickening river ice barricaded the boat and forced the men to spend a night sleeping in the bush.

Search and Rescue mapped a suspected route for an air search and Northwright Airways diverted a scheduled Inuvik-to-Aklavik passenger flight to the area where the men were suspected to be. A helicopter with RCMP on board was dispatched from Inuvik when the flight was unable to spot them and ultimately found the men on ice near the junction of the Schooner and Aklavik Channels.

The rescue took six hours from when the RCMP received the report to when the men were safely back in Aklavik.

The advisory stated the men were able to make a fire for warmth but had limited food supplies and no device for communication with them.

Sgt. Grant Payne, emergency planning co-ordinator for the Northwest Territories RCMP, said calls like this are common after spring breakup on the river.

"We do get quite a few calls this time of year," he said. "It will be busy for the next couple of weeks ... until the breakup is complete."

Sgt. Wes Heron, media relations officer for the RCMP, said the lack of supplies and unpredictable ice made the situation very dangerous.

"With breakup there's big huge chunks of ice floating around," said Heron. "That ice could easily, easily puncture your boat."

Payne said those who do choose to travel along icy rivers should bring extra supplies.

"It's good to plan for an extra day or more," he said. A lot of times (the danger comes from) people not being prepared."

Payne said communication devices such as a SPOT device or a radio are also useful in the case of an emergency and travellers should always notify local authorities or family members of their plans.

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