Three Canadian Forces search and rescue technicians were awarded the Star of Courage on Friday, for saving the life of a teenage boy trapped on drifting ice near Coral Harbour, Nunvaut, in November 2009.
Sgt. Randal McOrmond, Sgt. Robin Richardson and Cpl. Eric Beaudoin parachuted to a nearby ice floe. They then jumped between pieces of moving ice to reach Jupi Angootealuk, who was suffering severe hypothermia.
They offered medical attention, and also kept watch on two nearby polar bear cubs.
Angootealuk remembers that day well.
"Thanks to those people who parachuted down for me, and those people who came by boat," said Angootealuk. "Thanks a lot... you deserve that award."
Angootealuk had gone polar bear hunting with his grandfather when their snow machine broke down, close enough to Coral Harbour that they could see the lights.
After consulting with his grandfather, he began walking towards the community.
He fell asleep when he got tired, and woke up to blizzard conditions. He began walking again, even though he did not know where he was headed, and ended up at the floe edge heading towards thin ice.
That's when he fell into the frigid waters. Angootealuk took his boots off and used his mitts to cover his feet.
To top off his ordeal, a mother polar bear was approaching him, and he couldn't reach his gun. He covered his head with his hands and waited.
Angootealuk says the bear nudged him and began running away.
That's when he shot her, not realizing she was traveling with two cubs.
Angootealuk says a Twin Otter flew over and dropped a bag of supplies including a pack of cigarettes. The next day, the three search and rescue technicians parachuted down from a Hercules plane.
In all, Angootealuk spent two nights and three days on the ice. His grandfather was rescued the day before he was.
Angootealuk lost one of his smallest toes from the ordeal, but he says it was a miracle he did not get cold and slept very well.