Air rescue in Baffin Bay
Helicopter crashes en route to rescue

by Jennifer Pritchett
Northern News Services

NNSL (NOV 15/96) - Stormy weather and a helicopter crash tested the skills of Canadian air force crews sent to rescue a sick fisherman in Baffin Bay Tuesday night.

"When you deploy a rescue mission, it's an emergency that is often in poor weather," said Col. Pierre Leblanc, commanding officer for the Canadian Forces in Northern Canada.

"In such conditions, rescuers may become casualties, as they have in this case."

A Griffon helicopter that was sent to assist in the rescue crashed off the northernmost tip of Labrador, injuring four men.

While their injuries aren't life-threatening, two of the men were flown to a Montreal hospital.

Meanwhile, the Hercules aircraft sent from Canadian Forces Base Greenwood, N.S., continued the journey to Resolution Island to rescue the fisherman, who was suffering from a bleeding ulcer, on the Danish fishing vessel Vesturvon.

Two search and rescue technicians performed a rare night-time parachute jump into Baffin Bay, hitting the water about 150 metres from the Vesturvon.

A Zodiac boat brought them to the ship with the help of flares dropped from the helicopter.

Dan Dedell, spokesman for the Search and Rescue Co-ordination Centre in Halifax, said strong winds and choppy waters made the jump difficult.

"When he hit the water, the parachute was still open, and the wind dragged him away from the ship."

"It's significant to remember that it was all done in darkness," he added. The other jumper had less difficulty.

The Danish fishermen was then transferred to an Emergency Measures Organization vessel to make the final journey to Iqaluit. His condition is reported to be stable.