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Monday, June 01, 2009

Peter Mackay "Happy" about NL Search and Rescue Services

Just two months after 17 offshore oil workers tragically lost their lives in a helicopter crash off the coast of Newfoundland and Labrador, Federal Minister of Defence, Peter Mackay, said last week that his government will not be looking into changing the way Search and Rescue activities are conducted in Newfoundland and Labrador and that he is, “happy with the current configuration”.

I’d like to suggest to Mr. Mackay that perhaps he should pull on a survival suit and have someone drop him off about a hundred or so miles off the coast on a chilly spring day. After an hour or two of bobbing around, if he’s still breathing, the Minister should once again be asked if he is comfortable with the status quo.

Mr. Mackay’s comments came on the same day that former Chief Justice, T. Alex Hickman, the man who headed up the inquiry into the Ocean Ranger disaster, reiterated his concern about rescue services in the area and called once again for an improvement to those services.

Mackay's comments also came after a Cougar Helicopters spokesperson informed the public that Cougar, which runs the closest commercial rescue helicopters to the Province's offshore oil platforms is incapable of performing night rescues. A service that can be performed by Search and Rescue choppers which are not stationed near the oil fields and are not available for immediate response during the overnight hours.

Nobody is saying that any of the seventeen people who died during the recent offshore helicopter crash would have survived if Search and Rescue services had been faster but one thing is for certain. At the time of the crash there was not a single Search and Rescue helicopter in the Province. They were all away on training exercises in Nova Scotia.

The lone survivor was rescued by a Cougar Helicopter crew.

In my day one and one always equaled two.

In this case it's pretty clear that had that terrible crash happened at night instead of in the morning, the death toll would have surely included another name.

Luck and good timing are not the kind of "configuration" most of us would want to depend upon for our survival if we were the ones suddenly faced with a life expectancy of hours or even minutes.

For Mr. Mackay to say he's OK with the practice of allowing Search and Rescue to leave the Province without any service while conducting training is callous at best. To say it's acceptable that rescue crews are available "on call" after regular business hours (4 pm) while knowing full well that the private sector backup option cannot operate at night, is nothing more than cold hearted, disgusting and neglegence of the highest order.

The Minister's attitude is a slap in the face to the family of every person who has died at sea in recent years.

In the latest tragedy off Newfoundland and Labrador's shores nobody can directly point to an impact relating from the poor level of service being offered by the federal government but there are other cases where its been shown that even a reasonable level of service would have saved lives.

I’m sure in all these cases the people of Newfoundland and Labrador and especially the families of the victims involved, will find it hard to understand Mr. Mackay’s cold and callous position on this.

I began this article by suggesting that Mr. Mackay might benefit from spending a little time bobbing around the North Atlantic in a survival suit. I’d like to retract that statement and suggest instead that the Minister of Defence try it in February, without a survival suit, after dark, on a weekend while Search and Rescue crews are away on training.

In doing so he might actually accomplish something worthwhile for his Country, if only once.

1 comment:

NL-ExPatriate said...

Nothing but Outposts and deadmans land.