Nunavut MLA missing for a week found alive on Baffin Island

Uqqummiut member of the Nunavut Legislature Pauloosie Keyootak, his son Atamie Qiyuqtaq, and Peter Kakkik, have been found alive after a weeklong search on Baffin Island.

Trio built 2 igloos to protect themselves from wind and cold

Uqqummiut MLA Pauloosie Keyootak and two other travellers had gone missing after they left Iqaluit for Pangnirtung. (CBC)

Uqqummiut member of the Nunavut Legislature Pauloosie Keyootak, his son Atamie Qiyuqtaq, and Peter Kakkik have been found alive after a weeklong search. 

The three arrived at Qikiqtani General Hospital in Iqaluit Thursday night tired, hungry and thirsty after being retrieved by a helicopter. All three were discharged a couple of hours later. 

Ed Zebedee, the government of Nunavut's director of protection services, greeted the men as they walked off the helicopter, a moment he described as emotional. 

"Honestly I walked over and gave Pauloosie [Keyootak] a hug. There wasn't much said. I just gave him a hug."

Zebedee described the reaction of local searchers to the news as "ecstatic."

"There was a lot of cheering and hugging. We're still shaking," he said.

​Zebedee said a Twin Otter with local spotters found the three missing men Thursday evening about 183 kilometres south of Iqaluit. By their planned route, the men should have been travelling north. 

Keyootak, 62, his 16-year-old son, and Kakkik, 47, left Iqaluit by snowmobile and were expected in Pangnirtung last Wednesday on their way to Qikiqtarjuaq. When the group failed to arrive in Pangnirtung, a search was begun. 

According to Zebedee "the men had run into some caribou, it was storming out, they went after the caribou, got turned around in the weather, and got off course."

The search included volunteers from Pangnirtung, Qikiqtarjuaq and Iqaluit, as well as Canadian Forces aircraft. By Wednesday, Zebedee estimated that searchers had covered about a 15,000-square-kilometre area.

He said the air searchers were working on a grid system, and it was while the Twin Otter was flying its last grid that the spotters saw snowmobile tracks and followed them to the three missing travellers.

Zebedee said the men had built two igloos to protect themselves from the wind and cold. 

It's -25 C in Iqaluit today. Temperatures south of the city have dipped to -33 C this week. 

Twin Otter damaged on landing

Zebedee said the aircraft suffered damage when it landed near the missing men, breaking a hydraulic line to a ski, and could not take off again. A Cormorant helicopter was sent to pick up the men. 

"We caught the crew before they went to bed for the night, so they went down and picked everybody up and brought them to Iqaluit." 

Weather was becoming a concern, as snow was in the forecast for Saturday, which would have hampered search efforts.

Zebedee said searchers followed their procedures, "and every time we follow them, we find them." 

"We just hope people will start taking communication equipment with them so that we'll be able to find them immediately when they get in trouble."