Innu Nation chief's death prompts criticism of search and rescue efforts

The Canadian Press

HAPPY VALLEY-GOOSE BAY, N.L. - A provincial politician from Labrador says the death of a former grand chief of the Innu Nation has renewed calls to improve Canada's search and rescue protocols.

Randy Edmunds, a Liberal member of the legislature, says the death of Joseph Riche has raised questions about the availability of helicopters.

Riche died this week while on a hunting trip in the Park Lake area, about 80 kilometres southeast of Happy Valley-Goose Bay.

Royal Canadian Air Force spokesman Major James Simiana says three Griffon helicopters based at the air force base in Goose Bay were not available to assist in the search, so a Cormorant helicopter from the base in Gander was called in.

Edmunds says it would have taken a helicopter from Goose Bay roughly 40 minutes to reach the site, while the aircraft from Gander took more than three hours.

He says having at least one Goose Bay helicopter serviceable at all times should be a standard procedure.

But Simiana says the system did work as it should have, as search and rescue is the primary purpose of the helicopter from Gander, while the Goose Bay helicopters are normally called upon to support such aircraft.