Canadian Ranger reflects on successful Christmas Eve rescue in northern Sask.

·3 min read
From left, Canadian Ranger Master Cpl. Dave Mckenzie, Canadian Ranger Tammy Cook-Searson of the La Ronge CRP, Canadian Ranger Sgt. Jimmy Charles, and Canadian Ranger Doane Mckenzie. Cook-Searson was not involved in the Christmas Eve ground search and rescue. (4th Canadian Ranger Patrol Group/Submitted - image credit)
From left, Canadian Ranger Master Cpl. Dave Mckenzie, Canadian Ranger Tammy Cook-Searson of the La Ronge CRP, Canadian Ranger Sgt. Jimmy Charles, and Canadian Ranger Doane Mckenzie. Cook-Searson was not involved in the Christmas Eve ground search and rescue. (4th Canadian Ranger Patrol Group/Submitted - image credit)

On a slushy, snowy and seriously cold Christmas Eve night, a group of Canadian Rangers — four life-long friends — set out on a rescue mission in northern Saskatchewan.

The family of a local trapper had called Stanley Mission RCMP that afternoon to ask for help in getting the man home safely, after his snowmobile got stuck.

At 4:45 p.m. CST on Dec. 24, the local Canadian Ranger patrol got a call from police to conduct a ground search and rescue for the man. It was –25 C outside.

"He had to walk about nine kilometres back to his cabin, which had a generator and a cellphone booster there. That's how he managed to make the call out," said Canadian Ranger Master Cpl. David McKenzie.

McKenzie was one of the people involved that night, alongside commanding officer, Master Sgt. Jimmy Charles, and rangers Doane McKenzie and Ernie Roberts, a new recruit sworn-in last month.

"They're my life-long buddies, and they're rangers as well. The trapper, as well, is a good friend of mine," McKenzie said.

Within a half hour, the group — with the addition of a community volunteer, the trapper's son-in-law — was out on the trail. Within an hour, they had reached the cabin, travelling 38 km east of Stanley Mission.

"At the 29 km mark, we found the trapper's snowmobile in slush, same with the sled," McKenzie said.

"I wouldn't hesitate on doing it again. Head out on my snowmobile to help a community member out — or anybody for that matter." - Canadian Ranger Master Cpl. David McKenzie, Stanley Mission Patrol

The patrol found the trapper in his cabin, under blankets, with a little fire going. To add warmth, one ranger started another fire to boil some hot tea. They checked the man's feet and vital signs, gave him fluids and a snack.

"We made sure to dress him warm. We had some extra clothes and an extra helmet," McKenzie said.

They brought the trapper back to Stanley Mission to be assessed by nurses at a local clinic. The next day, the man got a ride back to his snowmobile, now also safely pulled away from the slush.

'Wouldn't hesitate to do it again'

Supt. Ted Munro is the commander of Saskatchewan RCMP's North District. In an email he said the service values its partnership with the Canadian Rangers, especially during "critical search operations."

"Not only do they have specialized search-and-rescue training, but they also have in-depth knowledge of local terrain and waters. Their unique skill-set has been invaluable many times this year in the north," he said.

The Stanley Mission patrol is one of 47 in Western Canada included in the 4th Canadian Ranger Patrol Group (CPRG). The rescue on Christmas Eve was the most recent mission in the region.

"This would've been our 17th ground search and rescue of the year, and our 16th life saved," said Natasha Tersigni, 4 CPRG public affairs.

The 4th CPRG posted about the successful rescue on Facebook, receiving positive comments on their work. McKenzie said people in the community also show gratitude for the patrol's efforts.

"We stand out with our reds and people acknowledge that and say thanks for what we do," he said, referring to the bright red hats and sweaters worn by rangers.

The 30-year-old enrolled with the Canadian Rangers in 2018 and completed basic training in 2019. On the civilian side, he works as the maintenance caretaker for two schools in the area.

McKenzie said he was motivated to join the rangers after seeing the work being done by patrols in nearby La Ronge, adding it was another way to do what he was taught as a boy: to help others.

"I wouldn't hesitate on doing it again. Head out on my snowmobile to help a community member out — or anybody for that matter," he said.

"I don't look forward to it, but when [rescues] happen, I like to step up."

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