The Resolute Bay Crash

Last August, a group of Canadian Rangers stood on a hillside near Resolute Bay, NU, surrounded by evidence of a disaster. First Air 6560 had crashed just hours before, killing 12 and injuring 3 in a well-documented tragedy. Less documented, however, was the lightning-quick response time of the local Rangers, and their resilient effort to make sure the survivors were sent for proper care and the crash site remained protected from the curiosity of northern predators.

Yesterday, these Rangers were honored in a ceremony in Yellowknife, receiving a unit commendation presented by Lt. Gen. Walter Semianiw. The six members of Taloyoak’s patrol who were involved in the rescue effort were to attend the ceremony, which included such guests as the Northwest Territories’ Commissioner, and Yellowknife’s Mayor. But a flight cancellation left them without a way to get from Taloyoak to Yellowknife. Still, it seems fitting to highlight their role in the efforts.

The Rangers were in the middle of a training exercise near Resolute Bay when the crash occurred, making them some of the first responders on the scene. They assisted the Canadian Forces in aiding the survivors and ensuring the wreckage was safe, and were crucial in keeping polar bears—drawn to the crash due to the plane’s food cargo being strewn across the crash site—away from the recovery operation, a 24 hour a day job until the RCMP could bring in enough officers to take over for the resilient—and, presumably, emotionally strained—Rangers.

Here’s what the Canadian Forces had to say about the commendation, as excerpted from their press release:

“In the changing environment of the Arctic, the Canadian Forces need to
be prepared for tomorrow’s safety and security challenges” said
Lieutenant-General Walter Semianiw.  “The success of CF Northern
operations has been achieved through an ongoing reliance on the Canadian
Rangers and 1 Canadian Ranger Patrol Group has gone above and beyond all
expectations to not only serve the Canadian Forces but also to provide
exceptional support to other Government Departments.”

The Canadian Rangers are a vital resource in Canada’s north as they act
as the military’s eyes and ears in remote and isolated areas throughout
the country. By sharing their traditional knowledge of the land and
environment, the Canadian Rangers are a major contributor to the
training and effectiveness of the Canadian Forces in the North.

“Canadian Rangers maintain a constant presence in the remote and
isolated areas across the Arctic, along our extended coastlines, and the
interior north of 60,” said Major Jeffrey Allen, Commanding Officer of
1 Canadian Ranger Patrol Group. “Many Canadian Rangers hold
leadership positions in their communities, such as mayors or chiefs
They are active community members who have a positive influence on
their peers and are often held up as role models for their youth.”

It’s tough to talk about such tragic news, and we know the Rangers’ efforts will never outweigh the horrors of that day, nor should it. But we do think their response deserves to be highlighted, as it contributed in some way to getting the survivors the help they needed.

(Photo by ‘arctichistorian01’, courtesy of Wikipedia)