Snowmobilers rescued after night in -35C

Eight members of the Canadian Rangers La Ronge patrol group responded to a call of five missing snowmobilers. Photo from 4th Canadian Ranger Patrol Group Facebook page.

It was a group effort of family, the Canadian Rangers and the RCMP that led to the rescue of five snowmobilers stranded in the bitter cold near Clam Lake recently.

The five adults found just enough cell phone coverage to call for help in the remote area 70 kms northwest of La Ronge when they became stuck in still unfrozen muskeg.

“It was a life-threatening situation,” said Cpl. Shane Marion of the La Ronge RCMP. “The temperatures had dropped to -35 or -40 C. There is real danger in temperatures like that – that kind of exposure to the elements could lead to hypothermia, which can be fatal.”

Police received the call about 8:30 am on Dec. 18 that the five adults were stuck and would be spending the night outside.

Even though they were dressed in winter gear, had some supplied and had a fire going, one of them had become wet from the muskeg and was extremely cold.

After getting out a call for help on the cell phone, communications stopped however.

Family members that are very familiar with the area, Rangers and RCMP officers headed out to find them, towing snowmobiles to use on the trail. They were met at the trail head by two of the snowmobilers who rode out looking for help.

“They were tired, cold but okay and were able to provide the search parties the location and status of the three still stranded on the trail,” said an RCMP news release issued on Dec. 20.

Along with making sure officers are trained to respond to such situations on sleds, ATVs or boats and with proper gear, the force also relies on local knowledge.

“It’s a big factor in how we police in situations like this,” explained Cpl. Marion. “Our police officers may not have the knowledge of local geography like long-time community members do. That’s why they are a key asset for us, especially when we’re dealing with situations in the bush and on the trails in remote areas.”

In this case, the snowmobilers’ family immediately travelled to the area to assist, as they have excellent knowledge of the area where their loved ones were stuck, Cpl. Marion explained.

Rangers are members of the Canadian military reserve, are local to the community they are based in and are tasked with search and rescue services amongst other duties.

Family members located the three remaining snowmobilers and brought them out to the trailhead, with the assistance of the Canadian Rangers and the RCMP. They then were assessed by EMS. They were reported to be in good health and were cleared to head home.

“We were very happy,” Cpl. Marion said. “With those frigid conditions, we knew these people were in danger and time was of the essence. We thank the family and the Canadian Rangers for helping get them back to safety – and warmth – quickly.”