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A 50-year-old man lies on a remote island in Algonquin Park. His back is injured from a fall, and he has trouble breathing. Snow showers cloud the sky. The situation is worrisome until a loud, welcome sound breaks through the air: the whir of a CH-146 Griffon helicopter.
On May 8, 2017, Joint Rescue Coordination Centre Trenton was called to help the Ontario Provincial Police with a medical evacuation. The patient was stuck on an island with his brother and needed help.
A Griffon crew from 424 Transport and Rescue (T&R) Squadron was tasked with the rescue mission.
The first challenge was a matter of fuel and distance. “We took off from Trenton in the Griffon helicopter with enough gas to get us there and insert the search and rescue (SAR) technicians,” said WO Bygrove, the senior SAR technician on the mission. “Based on the range of the aircraft, versus the distance to Algonquin Park and then out to the next gas stop or hospital, the time was very tight.”
The Griffon hovered over the island so that MCpl Eve Boyce, also a SAR technician, could be lowered down through the trees. She quickly assessed the patient.
Meanwhile, Bygrove was in a confined area just off to the side of the island, bringing down equipment.
Therein lay the second major obstacle: the trees. There was nowhere for the helicopter to land, so it had to leave to get more fuel.
There were two main tasks at hand: take care of the patient, and find a way to get him out.
Boyce stabilized the patient, which helped improve his breathing. Meanwhile, Bygrove took on the second challenge. Using a chainsaw that he had deployed with, he cut down some of the trees so that there would be space to hoist a stretcher back up to the helicopter.
Due to the weather conditions, they had to wait for first light to evacuate the patient. They took turns taking watch for the night.
“I’m confident in my and my team members’ skills,” said Bygrove. “We’re well trained to stay in any environment in Canada. It’s part of our job to exit that aircraft and operate on the ground. I was happy to be able to render that type of assistance and stay there.”
While the two SAR technicians were on the island, the Griffon crew faced weather trouble. They had to wait out the night, and, as a result, the rotors iced over. A second helicopter from 424 T&R Squadron was sent in to extract the patient in the morning.
The patient was taken to Pembroke Regional Hospital, and then the SAR crews returned to Trenton, happy with a job well done.
“It took a lot of great hoisting from the flight engineer, great flying from the pilot, and a lot of coordination from the Joint Rescue Coordination Centre to pull this off,” said Bygrove. “We’re really happy to be able to assist.”