Priest survives icy ordeal
Walks 18 hours in wet clothes before rescue

by Jennifer Pritchett
Northern News Services

CHESTERFIELD INLET (Nov 05/97) - A Chesterfield Inlet-based priest who fell into the icy waters of Hudson Bay and walked for 18 hours in soaked clothing before being rescued is back in the community, alive and well.

Father Louis Legare left the community Oct. 25 to meet friends who were fishing at Third Lake, 20-kilometres southwest of Chesterfield Inlet. After he wasn't able to find his friends, he decided to head back home the same day.

Legare, 48, ran into trouble when he tried with his ATV to cross what he thought was a frozen lake. The body of water was, however, a small inlet of Hudson Bay that wasn't completely frozen, and before he knew what was happening, he was in the water and his Honda was sinking.

He had to work fast to make his way back to the shore before he went under the water.

"Instead of coming back on the lake, I was on False Inlet they call it," he said. "It turned out it was open water. When I got to the shore, there was only about three feet of water and the Honda sunk."

Legare, said he didn't really know where to go after he got himself out of the water. He said he was wet, but had managed to keep himself reasonably dry when the ATV started to sink in the water. He had never been to the area before, and didn't know where he was or how to get back to Chesterfield Inlet.

"I was kinda lost you know," he said. "I never been there before -- I took directions from friends on how to get to Third Lake."

With nothing else to do, he started walking, mainly to get warm after his dip in the sub-zero waters of Hudson Bay.

"My feet were wet so I thought it better to keep walking," he said. "When evening came, I saw the lights coming from the community. So I knew I was walking in the right direction."

Determined to get back to the community, Legare walked slowly all night, plodding through deep snow along a peninsula that's separated from the mainland by water.

While getting closer to the community, he realized he would still have to cross the water to make his way home. And this meant he would end up in the icy waters again.

After walking 18 hours and clocking a distance of more than 15 kilometres, Legare was getting tired. But when it might have been easy to give up, Legare spotted a group of men on the other side of the water.

"I waved at them and I even shouted at them," he said. "They were across the false inlet afraid to drive on the ice."

But Legare started walking on the ice and met Steven Inukshuk, one of the searchers halfway.

"He came to me and gave me a hug and said we're sure glad to find you alive," he said. "And I said, I'm glad to see you too. I told them I guess I'm not meant to go to heaven yet because I didn't pass away out there."

Steven Inukshuk said that he was afraid that Legare would walk across the thin ice.

"I tried to lure him so that if he started to walk to us so he could walk on the thicker ice," he said. "I was pretty amazed -- his clothing was pretty dry for someone that fell through the ice," he said. "He said that his feet were wet and cold, but other than that he was hungry and thirsty."