Travellers 'safe and sound' after RCMP rescue near MacKay Lake

RCMP say people should respect winter road closures.

Blizzard conditions caught a total of 7 people out on the land

MacKay Lake is more than 200 kilometres from Yellowknife and lies south of the N.W.T. diamond mines. (Google Maps )

RCMP say travellers from the Tlicho and Yellowknife region are safe after a blizzard stranded them near MacKay Lake.

On Tuesday, RCMP launched a helicopter search in the area after three groups of travellers failed to return as expected.

Two of the three parties — consisting of four adults and a child — were found together on an access road east of MacKay Lake. Police say they were returned to Yellowknife by helicopter.

The third group was found south of Lockhart Lake. Those two adults returned to Yellowknife on their own, according to RCMP.

Malcolm Jaeb, whose family operates MacKay Lake Lodge, said his fishing group — which was separate from the missing parties — hunkered down in their cabins for the duration of the winter storm.

He said he believes he crossed paths with some of the travellers, whom he said appeared to be hunters, before the blizzard rolled in. 

"When the wind started picking up, it blew for a few good days and nobody could really move anywhere," he said Wednesday.

"Those guys were, I believe, doing a community hunt. So as long as it took to fill their freezers, that's how long they were going to be out there. But I didn't think they counted on the weather being as bad as it was." 

Jaeb said even skilled hunters can be turned around in poor weather and lose their landmarks.

Jaeb described the visibility that weekend as "class three" — a severe weather rating that would keep diamond mine workers indoors, he said. 

Keep off closed winter roads, say RCMP

RCMP say the travellers are all "safe and sound" but they urged people to keep off closed winter roads. 

The Tibbitt to Contwoyto Winter Road season ended March 31. Without ongoing maintenance, road conditions could be affected, said RCMP in a news release.

"We are thankful the overdue travellers were located without incident, and returned to the Yellowknife area," RCMP spokesperson Marie York-Condon stated in the release.

"We cannot impress enough, the need for travellers to respect winter road closures and avoid travelling on the closed roads."