DEER LAKE — The Deer Lake Search and Rescue unit hosted a training session on ice water rescue that included fellow units from all over the province. As part of the exercise, members put on survival suits and walked to the edge of the ice on Deer Lake, entered the frigid water and practiced how to get themselves out, as well as how to get someone else out.
For search and rescue members, the death of wildlife officer Howard Lavers on the Northern Peninsula last month cast a shadow over the exercise Sunday morning.
Mr. Lavers died on patrol when his snowmobile went through the ice near Hawkes Bay. He may have been too far out for his fellow officers to save him, but Darren Williams of the Deer Lake Search and Rescue unit said the training they received Sunday morning was vital for future operations.
“We’re certainly thinking about (Howard Lavers) today given how he died,” said Williams. “This training session was scheduled before that happened, but it’s great that we’re doing this now, anything we can do to stop this from happening again to anyone, we have to do.”
Around 27 teams from across the island travelled to Deer Lake to take part in the exercise. Most stood on the shore watching, but the teams that went into the water seemed to already have a good handle on how to get out of the situation. Their specialized survival suits worked the way they were supposed to and a team stayed onshore, also wearing survival gear, manning the ropes leading out to ice-bound members, keeping them safe.
While the weather Sunday was less than agreeable, Williams said the wind worked to their advantage as it was the backs of the members in the water, pushing them back to the ice shelf.
“It’s bad but this is what we want, most of the time when we get called out we don’t get sunny, warm weather,” said Williams. “So this isn’t bad, we get this training in the conditions that we can expect to perform in.”
Deer Lake’s Search and Rescue team recently received a new hovercraft, as well as new Global Positioning System gear to help with ground searches.