(1996 - 2000) The North & Recognition
OUTSTANDING SAR ACHIEVEMENT AWARD (Mike Daniels)
CASARA President Mike Daniels with wife Penny after receiving the Outstanding SAR Achievement Award
In 1996, Mr. Mike Daniels, then President of Civil Air Search and Rescue (CASARA), received the "Outstanding SAR Achievement Award” for his work with CASARA and Civil Air Rescue Emergency Services in Ontario. The Honourable John Richardson, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Defence, presented the award to Mr. Daniels. This is the highest honour that the Lead Minister responsible for Search and Rescue can bestow on SAR providers. Mr. Daniels accepted the award on behalf of all CASARA members.
CASARA / SERABEC SUPPORT TO “SAREX FOR MISSING CHILDREN”
CASARA has always supported the National SAR Program and its members are always willing to help out the SAR Techs in many ways. In 1996 CASARA members from Ontario and Quebec supported a SAR Tech fund raising cycle team who were cycling across Canada to raise funds and awareness. The main goals were to raise awareness about the tragedy of missing and abducted children in Canada as well as raise funds for a missing children’s program. In a letter dated 20 August 1996 to CASARA President, Mike Daniels, a 424 Transport and Rescue Squadron SAR Tech, Master Corporal Rick Henry stated the following:
Quote: “On 21 May 1996 five SAR Techs commenced cycling across Canada from Comox, BC to St. John’s, NL with the intent to raise awareness and funds for the national charitable organization “Victims of Violence Canadian Centre for Missing Children”. The trek covered approximately 8000 kms with a daily goal of 180 Kms per day for a total of 45 cycling days.
While in Ontario and Quebec Regions we received tremendous support from the CASARA and SERABEC organizations. The eagerness displayed by the CASARA and SERABEC members and the evident pride of their work enabled the SAR Tech team to complete the expedition in a safe and efficient manner. The SAR Tech Team would like to extend their most sincere appreciation to those involved.” Unquote.
This is a great example of the camaraderie displayed between the SAR Techs and CASARA/SERABEC organizations and is evident of the support and respect shown to each other.
SAREX for Missing Children cyclists in Winnipeg, MB
Cyclists receiving a $5000 cheque from the Commander of 17 Wing, Winnipeg as Warrant Officer John Kelly, chief fund raiser looks on.
CASARA MONUMENT UNVEILING
A monument to honour Civil Air Search and Rescue Association volunteers and Military aircrew who lost their lives since the formation of CASARA, was unveiled in May 1997, at Heritage Park, Winnipeg, Manitoba across the road from the military air force building called 1 Canadian Air Division Headquarters (Air Com). A bronze plaque on the monument lists the names of the CASARA spotters and military aircrew killed in July 1986 during the crash of a military SAR Twin Otter while on search in the Kananaskis Valley area. It also lists the names of those killed in a CASARA aircraft that crashed while on search 10 years later in June 1996. The guest of honour for the unveiling was the Honourable Yvonne Dumont, then Lieutenant Governor of Manitoba.
(L-R) Scott Broughton and Lieutenant-General Al Dequetteville unveil the CASARA Monument.
Lieutenant-General Al Dequetteville, then Commander of Air Command, and Mr. Scott Broughton, Regional Director General, Transport Canada unveiled the monument while the Air Command Band played and a CH113 SAR Labrador helicopter did a fly past. Many family friends, dignitaries, Air Cadets and SAR Tech’s from 435 Transport and Rescue Squadron looked on as family members laid wreaths.
Family members lay wreaths at base of monument. (L-R) Mike Daniels, CASARA President, Lieutenant-General Al Dequetteville and Lieutenant Governor of Manitoba pose for photo.
CASARA MONUMENT TODAY
The CASARA Monument unveiling took place during the spring of 1997 when the "Flood of the Century" was at its peak. Therefore, the grounds could not be properly landscaped. However, later that summer landscaping was completed and this how the monument looks today.
(LEFT):CASARA Monument as it looks today.
CASARA FOUNDATION GIVES BACK
The CASARA Foundation was incorporated in 1998 to present scholarships and bursaries to deserving volunteer individuals who wish to enhance their education or further their aviation careers. CASARA has presented several bursaries in the past, ranging from $300 to $5,000. CASARA believes in supporting its volunteer members and affiliate youth programs such as the National Air Cadet League of Canada. The CASARA Foundation awards bursaries to any Canadian citizen to further their flying or academic endeavours.
Mr. Charles Pachal, President of the CASARA Foundation presents a $1,000.00 bursary to Mr. Thomas White, Chairman of the awards committee of the Air Cadet League of Canada.
In 2011 Warrant Officer Zachary Belanger received a $5000 CASARA Foundation award from CASARA President, John Davidson.
ARCTIC TRAINING AND OPERATIONS PLAN (ATOP) - 1998
CASARA and the Military both saw a need for Search and Rescue resources north of the 60 th parallel. Because of the lack of primary military SAR resources, CASARA was asked by the Military in 1998 to fill the gap by creating new CASARA resources in the arctic who could assist in the National SAR Program. The military had no funds available to support the project so CASARA persevered and attained funding from the National Search and Rescue Secretariat (NSS) SAR Initiative Fund Program. The funds allowed a CASARA team consisting of Doug Betts, NS CASARA Director and Mike Daniels, ON CASARA Director to visit Iqaluit, NU on a fact finding mission. The program was called Arctic Training and Operations Plan (ATOP). They met with various government agencies that were directly or indirectly involved in local SAR as well as Fixed Base Operators (FBO) station managers.
Having civilian aircraft companies trained in SAR procedures in the arctic made sense and it also had many advantages. In most cases it would improve SAR response time in the remote areas of Eastern Arctic, it would free up military ground/aircrew crews and importantly free up military SAR aircraft so they could be readily available for other SAR missions in southern Canada. Using civilian SAR trained crews in the Arctic who spoke Inuit and who knew the local area was more cost effective than using military SAR aircraft/crews. Betts and Daniels were successful in their task to train local civilian air operators and local volunteers to accept SAR missions when tasked from a Joint Rescue Coordination Centres (JRCC). The program was later expanded into Cambridge Bay and Resolute Bay.
Note: Within several weeks of being trained in SAR procedures and upgraded to SAR operational status, CASARA Iqaluit was involved in two life saving missions.
At about 11:00 P.M. on Nov 11, 1999 a Cessna 172 piloted by Guy Cannon and passenger George Lester had been expected in from Atikokan, ON at 8:00 p.m. but had not arrived. The two occupants of the aircraft were well known to Thunder Bay residents, one was a CASARA member and the other was a former CASARA member. It had been ascertained that an Emergency Locator Transmitter (ELT) signal had been picked up by the search and rescue satellite system (SARSAT) west of Thunder Bay, and the coordinates were relayed to the Joint Rescue Coordination Centre (JRCC) in Trenton. The Flight Service Station (FSS) had also reported that commercial aircraft inbound to Thunder Bay had picked up an ELT signal in the same area. It would seem that this could indeed be the overdue Cessna 172.
A military Hercules SAR aircraft from 424 Transport and Rescue (T&R) Squadron was now enroute and tasked by the Joint Rescue Co-ordination Centre (JRCC) to carry out an electronic search but wouldn't arrive for several hours. The military requested Northern Ontario Air Search and Rescue, (NOASAR ) a Thunder Bay, ON CASARA unit to be on standby for a SAR tasking in the morning.
Though this type of scenario is what the unit trains for, it was both distressing and difficult to believe that friends were involved, somewhere out there in the night. Although crews were now on standby for the morning, there was an overwhelming desire to contribute something more to the search. Daylight was still several hours away, and a check of the weather forecast promised lower ceilings and reduced visibility, putting the chance of launching a successful visual search the next morning into question. Although the Hercules was expected in the area soon, it was uncertain if the darkness and cloud conditions would allow the Search and Rescue Technicians (SAR Techs) to parachute into the site, if in fact the missing aircraft was located.
The local Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) were the lead agency and were maintaining contact with JRCC Trenton, ON. NOASAR had the equipment and capability to conduct a ground ELT homing so they suggested to the police that a crew could be made available to them, if required. The police graciously accepted their suggestion at around 1:00 a.m. Maps and equipment were assembled, and the best road access route to the ELT coordinates was determined. A jeep was chosen as the search vehicle and was quickly fitted with roof-mounted Direction Finding (DF) equipment to be used to locate the emergency signal location.
The CASARA crew consisting of Wayne Corkum, Ed Tulin, Sr. and Carole Smith checked in at the OPP Thunder Bay Detachment. There, Staff Sergeant Andy Cordeiro, Sergeant Paul Michtics, and Constable Rob Andrews advised that the Hercules was now in the area and localized the ELT. The Hercules aircraft was beginning to drop light illuminating flares over the position of the strongest emergency signal location. The crew had not, however, been able to make any visual contact with what was suspected to be the downed Cessna; nor had any voice communication been received from the missing aircraft, which was now six hours overdue.
The Ground Party made radio contact with the Hercules aircraft and soon after an ELT signal was picked up using the DF unit on the jeep roof and the crew began their homing procedures.
Travelling in tandem, the NOASARA and OPP vehicles proceeded along the unpaved road, stopping at intervals to confirm DF reception and coordinates, and to check in with military aircraft orbiting overhead, Rescue 305. Although the sense of urgency to find the source of the emergency signal was great, a deliberate pace and methodical approach was maintained in an effort to ensure the homing was true. At one point, the Hercules dropped additional flares at the ground parties request to help correlate their positions. Descending through the patchy overcast, however, the flares only produced a diffuse glow in the distance, but confirmed the southerly bearing of the emergency signal indicated by the DF equipment.
Knowing from the maps and updated coordinates that they should soon be abeam the ELT signal, the NOASARA vehicle took the lead and proceeded at a reduced speed. Finally, the point had been reached and the vehicles pulled over. The ground crews made ready by taking a DF reading and compass bearing and headed into the bush.
Progress was slow, as the terrain was uphill and densely forested, with frequent blown- down trees. Using flashlights to light their way through the bush made the task very challenging.
Periodically the Hercules aircraft could be heard flying its racetrack pattern overhead, though out of view above the cloud. The Hercules Navigator checked periodically on the Ground Parties progress and Ground Positioning System (GPS) coordinates were exchanged, which correlated well with the readings from the DF unit. Just before 5:00 a.m., the Hercules radioed that it had reached its "Bingo" fuel time and had to return to Thunder Bay. The Ground Crew was advised by the Hercules crew that a Labrador helicopter was en route to Thunder Bay from Trenton, ON but was not expected until after 6:00 a.m. Before leaving the area the Hercules crew was careful to confirm that the ground crew had alternate means of radio communication. Indeed, the OPP officers each had radios and was maintaining contact with their communications centre. The Ground Party advised that they would therefore be shutting off the VHF transceiver for an hour to conserve battery power. The Hercules then departed, and the ground team continued walking single file through the bush.
Suddenly, without warning, a voice called out, ahead and slightly to the right of the group. In the light of the flashlights a single survivor suddenly appeared. He was standing, shivering, cut, and holding his left arm. Parts of the aircraft were dimly visible in the bush just behind him. The man standing in front of them was the pilot who advised everyone that his good friend, his passenger hadn't made it.
The location and status of the crash site was radioed into the OPP base, with the news reaching the Hercules crew soon after they had landed at Thunder Bay. Basic First Aid was administered to the pilot. The fact that he had, at this point, survived almost ten hours alone in the bush and was still very calm and lucid was very encouraging. Remarkably, he never once complained about his own condition, about being cold or in pain, but instead thanked everyone for being there. A fire was quickly built and the pilot was helped over to it, where efforts were made to keep him as warm and comfortable as possible. Things then became quieter, with the group talking softly and feeding the fire, as they waited for daylight and the arrival of the Labrador helicopter. After a couple of hours the sky began to lighten, showing a low ceiling and mist just above the treetops. Though visibility was limited, it became evident that the site was located on high ground that sloped downward on all sides. The wreckage of the aircraft was also now obvious, with the tail cone and empennage lodged approximately thirty feet up in a tree; followed by the entire wing section on the ground beyond it; and then the remains of the cabin section, tilted up on its right side. The passenger was still in the cabin, strapped into his seat wearing his much-beloved CASARA jacket.
Observing the weather, there was some quiet discussion regarding the likelihood of the helicopter being able to make it into the site, especially considering the high terrain. It was well after 8:00 a.m. and no one could be raised on the radio. Then, after some time, the sound of rotors could be heard approaching from the North, and radio contact was made with Rescue 75.....a 424 Squadron Labrador helicopter was on its way. The helicopter crew reported spotting the ground party's vehicles on the road, and advised they were heading southward toward the coordinates. The ground party first saw the Labrador's red beacon, then the nose of the machine, moving slowly uphill, following the ground contours. To make the site more conspicuous, dry evergreen was placed on the fire to increase the height of the orange flame, and an orange jacket was waved. Rescue 75 then sighted the party, but due to the low ceiling it hovered below and to the South, just above the treetops. Two SAR Tech’s descended from the helicopter by hoist and headed for the crash site.
The SAR Techs took charge of the scene by immediately assessing the pilots condition and deactivating the plane's ELT. The ground crew helped the SAR Techs move the pilot downhill to the hovering Labrador, where he was secured in a Stokes Litter and hoisted slowly through the tree branches to the helicopter followed by the two SAR Tech’s. The Rescue helicopter then began its slow and careful trip back to Thunder Bay.
It must be pointed out that the CASARA Thunder Bay unit and the local OPP unit did an exceptional job that night. They quickly organized themselves as one team that led to the saving of the pilot's life. If it weren't for their combined efforts the lone survivor may have perished because of hypothermia/injuries and not have survived the night. The communication coordination between ground crew and the military via VHF radio was a key factor in quickly locating the downed aircraft and the lone survivor.
In all, it was a very bitter-sweet experience for the unit. The tragedy and shock of losing of George Lister was sharply contrasted with the miraculous survival of Guy Cannon, and NOASARA's participation in the successful search and rescue operation. Our members in the field that night were also able to witness firsthand the professionalism of both the Ontario Provincial Police and the crews from 424 Squadron, as they demonstrated very tangibly their motto, "That Others May Live".
George’s funeral was held the following week, and was attended by his CASARA colleagues from Thunder Bay as well as provincial and national CASARA representatives. In honour of George’s service as a pilot both with the Canadian Air Force and later as a CASARA volunteer, a 424 Sqn CC-130 Hercules made the trip from Trenton, led by LCol Peter McKeage and accompanied by several squadron personnel. This gesture was greatly appreciated by friends, family, and George’s fellow NOASARA volunteers.
Transport Canada Safety Inspectors looking for clues as to why the aircraft crashed.