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First major search and rescue exercise in waters of Prince Edward County

A charter flight carrying 20 passengers from Toronto to Halifax crashed off the shore of Waupoos Island early Saturday morning. Initial radio traffic between the pilot and the area control centre established the pilots’ intention to attempt a water landing, but radio communication was lost and the exact area of the crash was unknown.

Calls for assistance went out to 10 agencies involved in the Canadian Coast Guard Auxiliary Units’ first major search and rescue exercise conducted in the waters off Prince Edward County.

“This exercise is an ultimate test of training and experience of the Coast Guard Auxiliary Units that service the Quinte area,” said Rob MacCallum, Search and Rescue exercise committee chairman. “It affords exposure to work in conjunction with all of the first responder services of Prince Edward County, the Quinte area and DND Trenton 8 Wing 424 Squadron.”

The exercise helps to evaluate Canadian Coast Guard Auxiliary members’ response to a major incident, their ability to work with other agencies and to evaluate search and rescue teams in the treatment of survivors and to evacuate simulated casualties to the safety of a stable platform for emergency evaluation and treatment. Data and information collected will also be used to develop emergency response plans.

The scenes: An aircraft locator beacon was transmitting a signal north of Timber Island. Coast Guard Auxiliary Units located a large debris field. Numerous victims were in the water. The aircraft was still afloat, partially intact. A radio call is placed for all available units to assist. The Avalon takes over as command centre on the water. A fuel spill is contained by the Thomas H Patterson, a Kingston Fire and Rescue vessel.
“Dummy” victims are transported from the crash site to the boat launch and exchanged for volunteer victims at Waupoos Marina where they were accessed and treated by EMS and fire personnel in a triage area.

The participants:
Picton Search and Rescue:
The Avalon, a 44-foot motor yacht built in 1922, was the command centre on the water. It is privately owned by John Clarke who has been a member of the Canadian Coast Guard Auxiliary (CCGA) since its inception in 1978. With a crew of five, the Avalon covers the waterways from Telegraph Narrows to the upper gap between Amherst Island and the County.

Brighton Search and Rescue:
Brighton’s 20-plus volunteers operate a 30-foot boat and a small in-shore rescue inflatable boat in teh waters from the western entrance of the Murray Canal, south beyond Scotch Bonnet and west toward Cobourg. Brighton regularly assists 424 Squadron’s Griffon helicopters and Hercules aircraft.

Wellington Auxiliary Rescue Association:
Wellington Rescue became operational in 2008 with a handful of volunteers and a 24-foot boat donated by the Prince Edward OPP. Today, its 16 volunteers provide search and rescue services under the CCGA and cover the waters of Lake Ontario from Scotch Bonnet to Prince Edward Point.

Quinte Search and Rescue:
QSAR volunteers service communities along the Bay of Quinte including Belleville, Quinte West, Napanee, Tyendinega Mohawk Territory, Deseronto, and Prince Edward County in two boats – a 29-foot Kingfisher and a 17-foot Crestliner. QSAR is a member of the CCGA central and Arctic.

Kingston Fire and Rescue:
The vessel Thomas H Patterson was named after the first recorded firefighter to die in the line of duty in Kingston. Patterson served with the Kingston Fire Department from 1911 to 1941.

PEC Fire Department:
Responsibilities include education and program services, inquiries, fire code enforcement, engineering plans, fire suppression, rescue services, emergency defibrillation and medical assist services and ice water rescue.

Hastings Quinte Emergency Medical Services:
Ambulance services from Bancroft, Madoc, Trenton, Belleville and Prince Edward County with a a team of about 150 members who respond to more than 24,000 calls for assistance every year.

Ontario Provincial Police:
OPP officers are responsible for traffic safety on roadways, waterways and trails. Participants in this exercise are from the East Region Snowmobile All Terrain Vessel Enforcement (SAVE) unit, PEC, Quinte West and Napanee detachments.

Canadian Coast Guard Auxiliary:
The organization was established by the Canadian Coast Guard in 1978 and is made up of volunteers to assist in marine search and rescue operations and work together on a common objective of preventing loss of life and injury.

Joint Rescue Co-ordination Centre – Trenton:
JRCC Trenton co-ordinates search and rescue response to air and marine incidents within the region covering the majority of the onshore, offshore and territorial waters in the Canadian Arctic including the NWT and most of Nunavut. It also includes the western half of Quebec and the provinces of Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta. As a secondary role, it coordinates requests by other levels of government for federal search and rescue resources – commonly made for humanitarian reasons that fall within provincial or municipal jurisdiction including searches for missing hunters, hoisting injured hikers and medical evacuation when civilian agencies are unable due to weather or location.

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  1. Capt Chris Holder says:

    Congratulations to the organizers and all the volunteers (100 plus people). The search and Rescue exercise on the waters of Prince Edward Bay on Saturday went really well. A lot was learned.This SAREX has been in the works for more than a year. The four coast guard auxiliary units Brighton,Belleville,Picton and Wellington did a fabulous job. Thanks also to Prince Edward County Fire, Hasting and Prince Edward EMS, Kingston Fire, Canadian Coast Guard Sarnia and Kingston. These people train hard all year to help make us safe and when an incident like this happens we are able to respond effectively.Once again thanks to each and every one.

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