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435 Sqn receives JRCC award

435 Sqn receives the JRCC Rescue of the Quarter

Capt Krystle Sloan, 435 Transport and Rescue Squadron

The Joint Rescue Coordination Centre (JRCC) has recognized 435 Transport and Rescue Squadron for their response to an incident on December 27, 2023. The 435 Sqn SAR team on duty was called out to respond to a plane crash in the vicinity of the Diavik Diamond Mine located in the Northwest Territories approximately 170 nautical miles northeast of Yellowknife.

The 1 Canadian Air Division (CAD) command team presents members of 435 Transport and Rescue Squadron with the JRCC Rescue of the Quarter award for their response to a plane crash in the Northwest Territories on December 27, 2023. Front row (l-r): 1 CAD Chief Warrant Officer CWO Dan Campbell, SAR tech Sgt Vincent CBenoit, aircraft commander Capt Jason Shaw, AVN tech Sgt Chris Fortin, 1 CAD Commander MGen Iain Huddleston; back row: pilot Capt Martin Tuzim, air combat systems operator Capt Jeremy Simmonds, flight engineer Cpl Daniel-Lee Trommelen, loadmaster Cpl Cory Steward, SAR tech MCpl Alexandre Fortin, AVN tech MCpl Matt Browning, AVN tech MCpl Daniel Van Helvert, AVS tech MCpl Gary Marshall, AVS Tech Cpl Owen Chitohwa, and ACS tech Cpl Adil (AJ) Napoles. Responding SAR tech MCpl Matt Henry is not pictured.

 

Upon receiving details of the call-out, lead SAR Tech Sgt Vincent CBenoit made the decision to bring a third SAR Tech along for the mission. With a confirmed aircraft crash and an estimated eight persons on board, increasing the number of respondents seemed prudent. This would prove to be a wise decision, as the team would remain awake all night and caring for 10 patients!

 

The responding team spent the three-and-a-half-hour transit preparing three potential courses of action to take once they arrived on scene. The conditions were not ideal, with two ceiling layers of blizzard from 0 to 1000 feet restricting visibility and creating complex circumstances to jump safely to the crash site. Understanding that the survivors would likely not make it through the night without treatment and survival equipment, the SAR Team decided to parachute to the scene despite the 48-knot wind that was only increasing towards the ground.

 

With the help of the aircrew’s flying expertise, and utilizing their parachuting skills, all three SAR Techs were able to land safely within 100ft of the crash site. After finding six passengers in a much too small tent, and a further four passengers in the body of the downed aircraft that dangled precariously on the ledge of a 25-foot embankment, they began triaging the myriad of injuries ranging from mild hypothermia to broken bones and breathing issues, all while the CC-130 Hercules circled overhead to support with dropping equipment and providing the overhead picture.

 

With the help of four Emergency Response Team (ERT) members from Diavik, the SAR Techs quickly secured the downed aircraft to ensure it wouldn’t be pushed by the powerful wind and cause further injury during the extraction of the patients inside. With this essential task done, they coordinated the drop of equipment from the Hercules before returning to 17 Wing to allow for a crew swap. This strategic decision allowed for the maintenance of SAR posture during the on-going rescue activities.

 

The SAR Techs then established communications with JRCC and put together their collective medical knowledge to creatively use the limited equipment to conduct safe patient transfers of two critical patients who were unable to move themselves from the body of the wreckage to the newly built camp.

 

For the next 14 hours, Sgt Vincent CBenoit, MCpl Matt Henry, and MCpl Alexandre Fortin provided critical patient care to the injured survivors with the assistance of the Diavik ERT members. To battle hypothermia, arctic tents were established for shelter, and every patient was able to eat a warm meal and have a warm drink. Ongoing patient maintenance was scheduled, as well as the reading out of protocols and rehearsing of procedures to ensure the fatigue felt by the SAR Tech team didn’t impact their ability to provide care. The SAR Techs spent the night providing pain management, monitoring vitals, and checking in with JRCC every two hours to provide patient updates and receive extraction updates.

 

By the morning, all the patients had improved; some were even able to go for a walk outside and help with tearing down the camp, a testament to the medical knowledge and efficacy of the responding SAR Techs. Three A-Star helicopters landed 100 feet from the camp, extracting eight patients, MCpl Henry, and MCpl Fortin on the first lift, with Sgt CBenoit, the remaining two patients, and the last of the gear on the second extraction. From there, they flew to 20 km north of Diavik where everyone was transported to Yellowknife with two awaiting Dash-7 aircraft.

 

Upon presentation of the award on February 7 February ,1 CAD Commander MGen Iain Huddleston expressed appreciation of the dedication and professionalism of SAR crews, not only at 435 Sqn, but across the RCAF. He made mention that although these specific individuals are receiving this award on that day, he had confidence and gratitude that any of the other SAR and maintenance crews would have step forward and demonstrated the same success and professionalism should they have been the ones on duty that particular night. This is a sentiment frequently echoed by LCol Joshua Leveque, the commanding officer of 435 Sqn, who consistently takes the time to praise not only the operators directly conducting the operations, but also the vast technical, logistical, and peer support team working in the background to ensure those operators have what they need to succeed and can focus on the operation at hand.

With this sense of teamwork, 435 Sqn is always able to embody the squadron motto, Determined to Deliver!

 

 

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