The federal government is stationing another helicopter in Labrador after weeks of protests calling for improved military search and rescue there following the death of Burton Winters, a teenager who was lost in the area.
The Department of National Defence says three CH146 Griffons will now operate out of the Canadian Forces Base in central Labrador.
"5 Wing Goose Bay will have an immediate positive impact on the operational readiness of the base and provide flexibility to decision makers on the use of Canadian Forces assets in the region," said Defence Minister Peter MacKay in a news release Wednesday.
"This helicopter represents another resource that can contribute to Canada's Search and Rescue system in support of primary responders in this region."
There were three Griffons stationed at Goose Bay less than a decade ago when more NATO countries used the facility for training. In recent years, two have been stationed at the Labrador base.
Labrador MP Peter Penashue lauded the move.
"That will bring the number of helicopters from two to three and that will give full services to 5 Wing Goose Bay for their needs, as well for any request for ground search and rescue," he told reporters in St. John's.
Penashue — Newfoundland and Labrador's rep in the Harper cabinet — batted aside questions about whether Ottawa was simply putting back a helicopter it took away a few years ago.
"Our glass is half full, not half empty," Penashue said. "We have to remain positive about the story because I think this is excellent news for Labrador."
10 weeks after Burton Winters' death
The announcement comes about 10 weeks after Winters, 14, was found dead on the sea ice outside of Makkovik — his home town on the north coast of Labrador.
DND sent helicopters to the area more than 36 hours after Winters was first reported missing on Jan. 29.
His body was recovered on Feb. 1.
DND has come under persistent fire from critics who've said it should have been involved in the search earlier.
It was called about 14 hours into the search by provincial and RCMP officials conducting a ground search but its officials said mechanical problems and poor weather kept DND assets grounded.
But an investigation by CBC's The Fifth Estate raised questions about the DND response.
The Fifth Estate obtained the operational log related to the incident and it includes weather reports that contradicted the DND statement. DND's guidelines say search and rescue helicopters need a 300-foot clearance and half-mile visibility to fly safely. The weather reports show they had twice that on Jan. 30.The military still didn't send a helicopter after the weather improved. When asked why not, officials replied: no one called them back to say they were still needed.
Since the tragedy, people in communities across Newfoundland and Labrador have held vigils to remember Winters and call for improved DND search are rescue capabilities in Labrador.
Winters' family 'happy' that 3rd chopper added
Randy Edmunds, a Liberal MHA who represents the coastal Labrador district of Torngat Mountains, says family members of Winters told him they were pleased with the announcement of the third chopper.
"They were quite happy with movement being made, in terms of resources being made available at 5 Wing Goose Bay," Edmunds told CBC News.
Edmunds — who participated in the search for Winters — says people in Labrador still want a full-fledged search and rescue squadron in the region.
"But this certainly is a step in the right direction," he said.