Botched up Rescue attempt and other winter accidents

Carol RoachStarred Page By Carol Roach, 25th Jun 2015 | Follow this author | RSS Feed
Posted in Wikinut>Health>General Health>Public Health

Winter is a time for cold and snow related accidents, be careful when you go out in the cold.

Winter in Montreal

Looking forward to winter here in Montreal is to be prepared for lots of snow an a major snowstorm. Wintertime is a great time for outdoor activities such as snowing and skiing and Montrealers do not stay inside just because it is cold. We are winter babies and we love the fresh winter air. It is good for our health, but unfortunately in some cases it can be bad for our health as well.

Healthy people and sick people alike must be cautious in winter weather. Everyone must dress warmly and dress in layers to keep warm. During the coldest weather any exposed skin can be subjected to frostbite. Now imagine what is like for mentally ill people exposed to the elements with no protection at all?

In January of 2010, Montreal CTV news ran a story about women in her 80's who suffering from Alzheimer's. This woman wandered out of her home without her families' knowledge and was later found frozen to death behind a strip Mall on St. Laurence Blvd.

A second tragic death occurred the winter of 2010, when again another 73-year-old woman wandered away from her home and was found dead near the Hippodrome de Montreal. The families of course were distraught and the public worried about safety for mentally ill individuals and people suffering with Alzheimer's or other forms of dementia.

However, even though the mentally ill are at risk in the frigid Montreal weather, there is of course the handicap who fall in snowbanks and icy Montreal streets. Even physically able people can fall and get injured. We do have snow removal, but between the delay from the city to do the job and the parked cars on the roads that prevent the city workers from getting the job done,

it can take up to 5 days after a major snowstorm to clear the snow. It usually takes about 3 days to salt the slippery streets. Hence, falling on the street going to and from shopping or work is quite common in Montreal and sometimes these falls can break bones, twist ankles and so on.

S.O.S. distress signal

Winter accidents are a common occurrence and a common health risk in Montreal. However, even recreational activities as we know can cause major accidents and death. Former, Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau and his ex wife Margaret lost their son Michel in an avalanche when he was skiing. Accidents can happen anywhere and everywhere.

With all the winter accidents, it gets us to think just how much we can help as ordinary citizens of the world; how we can stop senseless deaths. Yet, the people who are in the business of savings lives do not always come through, these people include, doctors, psychologists, and police officers.

The terrible accident that took the life of a Montreal couple

We all know the international maritime distress signal S.O.S. The message was first tapped out in Morse code on wireless telegraph at the end of the 19th century. Guglielmo Marconi was the inventor of the wireless radio. Morse code is a system whereby letters are tapped out to spell words using a series of short shorts signals referred to as dots and long signals referred to as dashes.

What does S.O.S. mean?

Three dots, three dashes, and three dots again, spelled out S.O.S. S.O.S. was believed to originally mean "save our ship." Today it is used worldwide to mean help in any condition where a human is in eminent danger.

Unfortunately help did not come fast enough for a couple vacationing in Golden, B.C. in February. 2009. Gilles Blackburn aged 50 and his wife Marie Josee Fortin, age 44 set out for a wilderness trip in western Canada. On February 15, the Quebec couple arrived in Golden, B.C. after leaving their hotel in Alberta. Before checking into a new hotel they planned to do some skiing way out in the back country and got lost.

On February 17th a skiing guide spotted an S.O.S. signal in the snow and alerted the Golden and District Search and Rescue team. He also alerted the Kicking Horse Resort. An initial search was conducted at the time, but this search was limited to the general parking lot for abandoned vehicles at the resort. The couple never parked there, they used an underground parking lot instead. The search team never bothered to check for missing ski equipment or the underground parking lot and they ended their search at that point.

Conclusion of the fatal accident that took the life of a Montreal woman

On February 21st there were two more sightings of S.O.S. signals in the snow by skiers who alerted the RCMP. However, when the RCMP contacted Kicking Horse Resort they were told they already had done their investigation and there was no evidence supporting missing people. The RCMP did not take further action at that time.

Examiner Note: Why were the S.O.S. signs in the snow continuously ignored? A plea for help should never go unheeded.

On February 23rd the family of Blackburn and Fortin filed a missing person's report when the couple did not return home to LaSalle, Quebec (Montreal).

The following day, February 24th, the search resumed and a helicopter spotted a man waving his arms in the snow. He was rescued, but it was already too late for his wife who had frozen to death.

What went wrong

In B.C. the search and rescue team must first be given the okay to go on the search and rescue mission; they cannot just act on their own. While the search and rescue team waited for the RCMP to give them the okay, Blackburn and his wife were walking around for days in the snow. They built shelters wherever they could. Ian Foss, the manager of the volunteer Golden Search and Rescue team said, "It's pretty incredible that he actually survived," Foss said. "Ten days in the Canadian wilderness in the winter is pretty significant."

The couple did not have any food with them except for two granola bars. They found water to drink, and Blackburn even slipped under the ice into the water and managed to pull himself back up. Furthermore, this part of the country is steep rugged terrain and not a place for an inexperienced individual. Blackburn and his wife were experienced outdoor people and only Blackburn made it in the end. He was taken to the hospital with symptoms of frostbite.

Could his wife have been saved? If only the search was conducted two days sooner she would have been. The RCMP admits making an error in judgment by not launching a full-scale search sooner.

S.O.S. means help, not ignore!

All photos taken from the public domain

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Alzheimers Disease, Botched Up Rescue Attempt, Dementia, Distress Signal, Frost Bite, Frostbite, Missing Persons Report, Montreal Weather, Morse Code, Rcmp, Snow, Snow Storms, Snowbanks, Sos, Weather, Winter, Winter In Montreal, Wireless Telegraph

Meet the author

author avatar Carol Roach
Retired therapist and author of two books, freelance writer, newsletter editor, and blogger. I write, health, mental health, women's issues, animal , celebrity, history, and SEO articles.

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