SAR tech recalls deadly Igloolik, Nunavut, rescue
Rescue mission cost the life of Sgt. Janick Gilbert
A member of the Canadian Forces search and rescue squadron is talking about a harrowing, deadly rescue mission in Nunavut, one year after it happened.
Two hunters from Igloolik, Nunavut, were rescued after being stranded in Hecla Strait. Search and rescue technician Sgt. Janick Gilbert died during the operation.
"It was pitch black right, the weather was bad, not a lot of visibility," said Master Cpl. Shawn Bretschneider.
Bretschneider said the only light source they had was from the helicopter.
It was windy, there were huge swells and a lot of ice.
After finding a helmet floating in the water, the Search and Rescue Squadron tried to find one of their own. They found Gilbert floating between two icebergs.
Bretschneider estimates Gilbert was in the water between five and a half to seven hours.
He jumped out to try to rescue him
"We managed to get him on board. From there we did what we could if there was anything to revive him. He was cold. His eyes were glazed over with ice, his chest was hard. There wasn't much we could do."
Bretschneider said it was dangerous for himself to bring Gilbert into the helicopter.
"I got caught up in a 30-foot swell and I was attached to the hook and I had Janick on top of me. With his weight and my weight we got caught up in a wave where I was under the water. Let's just say it's the longest I've gone without breathing."
For these heroic actions, Bretschneider and four others involved in the mission were recently named the winners of the Cormorant Trophy for Helicopter Rescue for the most demanding helicopter rescue of the year.
He said he and his comrades will never forget Gilbert — a man they call their brother.
"A lot of us are fortunate to go on these unfortunate missions for those that are in need of help, but it was very tragic."