DEER LAKE A plane crashes in a forested area during a snowstorm. Blood stains the snow and plane parts litter the area, almost like a bomb went off. Several survivors cling together under a wing, they’re shaken, crying, scanning the night sky for any signs of a light, hoping the pilot got an SOS message through before he died.
Members of the 103 Search and Rescue Squadron were in town training for just such a scenario, as well as others. They train across the province for situations involving plane crashes, maritime situations and humanitarian incidents and members all agree; nothing is routine.
“We train every day,” said Capt. Jay Hall. “But every six months or so we try and deploy to a different operating base on the island to present more challenging environments so our members can better their skills as a group and individually.”
Hall said each area on the island presents its own challenges. Around St. John’s they train mainly for medical evacuation and maritime vessel disasters, such as if a boat or ship catches fire. This past week in Deer Lake has seen the group set up two plane crashes in the woods to allow members to train for multi-casualties as well as search techniques.
The squadron’s daily routine gets them up and working at 6 a.m. with about six hours of training each and every day. Last year the squadron had 98 calls for service in various parts of the island, which they say is quite high for a smaller squadron.
Paramedics with Western Health, as well as members of the Civil Air Search and Rescue Association. Hall said working with civilian search and rescue organizations is important.
“We are one facet in the national search and rescue operations,” he said. “We work with civilian agencies to that we can all learn from each other.”
He added that although the squadron is outfitted with the latest safety equipment, the training keeps them just a safe. One of the most challenging scenarios is night rescue, for which they have to use night vision goggles.
“It’s a risk management position here, but we all do our best,” he said.
The 103 Search and Rescue Squadron was formed in Nova Scotia in 1947. It eventually moved to Gander in 1977 when Canada declared a 200-mile economic zone off its shores and assumed search and rescue duties for the zone.
It was granted squadron status in 1997.