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SAR Tech Rescue Mission near Pinawa

Search and Rescue Technicians Sergeant Cbenoit and Master Corporal Gab Pintal-Godin were working out in the compact gym at SAR Tech headquarters in 16 Hangar on the morning of July 27, 2023.

The alarm bell suddenly sounded.

“We didn’t have any details at first. We didn’t know what was happening. We quickly got changed and started to prepare equipment in order to depart,” shares Sgt Cbenoit.

Their mission had been “pre-approved” by the Joint Rescue Coordination Centre (JRCC) at CFB Trenton prior to takeoff given the condition of the subject, Sgt Cbenoit explained.

After all mission essential equipment was gathered and loaded onto the aircraft, their C-130 Hercules took off at 1130 hrs.

They were on their way to rescue a pilot whose single engine float plane had gone down in the rocky southern boreal forest area near Pinawa, MB, approximately115 kilometers northeast of Winnipeg.

Transit time was 20 minutes. During this time, both SAR Techs had dressed into full bush gear and had their parachutes on, prepared to enter the scene. The search object was located within a minute of arriving on scene.”

“We knew there was one survivor on the ground,” MCpl Pintal-Godin said.

There just happened to be another aircraft overheard talking to the survivor of crash, Sgt Cbenoit said.

“The pilot was a flying instructor who had previous military service,” said MCpl Pintal-Godin, noting the pilot’s first name was Paul.

“We knew there was a survivor, so we want to get on the ground as soon as possible. We’re not going to waste our time throwing a radio (down to the crash victim) and wait for a message. We were so efficient that from the time we received the call to the time we were on the ground was no more than 45 minutes.”

Once on the ground the two SAR Techs took two minutes to approach the crash site, notes the official report.

They found the downed pilot, Mr. Byrce Olson from Fort Smith, NWT, in a sitting position, some 40 feet from the wreckage.

“We established contact with Bryce,” Sgt Cbenoit said.

“He had a lot of pain in his back. He had a broken back and broken sternum. The day was hot and humid. We got him into the shade and administered treatment.

“Medical protocol was followed. We were with him for an hour and then STARS (Shock and Trauma Air Rescue) came with their helicopter. They landed and shut down and took over from us. It was as smooth as that.

“At that point, I was trying to coordinate our extraction. Everybody was saying, including the JRCC, that STARS would take us back, but, we all knew their helicopter wasn’t big enough.

“Paul landed his float plane and called his partner to do a preflight, and ten minutes later he was back with his own helicopter. He brought us back and landed us on the ramp in Winnipeg. We were back in time for dinner.”

Both SAR Techs later visited Mr. Olson at the Health Science Centre.

“He was in hospital for at least a week,” Sgt Cbenoit said.

“Unfortunately, all our missions don’t have the same positive outcome. This time we were able to extract someone out of trouble. We were also able to stay in contact with him. It will be an experience we’ll remember for the rest of our lives.”

The other crew members on that mission were Aircraft Commander - Capt Leslie; First Officer - Capt Renz; Navigator - Capt Blake; Flight Engineer - Sgt Grocholski; Load Master - Sgt Dube.

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