Vol. 80, No. 2News notes

Two snowmobilers surrounded by blowing snow on barren landscape.

Labrador RCMP say trackers can save lives

Labrador RCMP say a satellite personal tracker can save time and lives when people need rescuing in the wilderness.


Matthew Lougheed and his snowmobiling partner hunkered down in a remote cove on the rugged coast of Labrador in the early evening of Jan. 26, 2018 after bad weather and rough terrain put a premature end to their trip from Hopedale to Natuashish.

Rather than panic, Lougheed, who was carrying a satellite personal tracker, knew help wasn't far away.

Once the 34-year-old activated the device's SOS function, the pair's exact location was sent to rescuers, saving precious time and resources. The use of such a tool during a potential missing-persons search is particularly important in a vast and remote place like Labrador.

"That really did save our lives … they knew right where to look for us," says Lougheed, noting the pair lit a small fire as temperatures hovered around the -40 C mark with the wind chill.

In 2016, the Hopedale RCMP, several Nunatsiavut communities and local organizations raised funds to buy 10 of the satellite messengers, which are loaned free of charge to anyone heading out into the wilderness.

Sgt. Darryl MacMullin wants to see more of the devices, which can fit into the palm of your hand, signed out of the Hopedale detachment.

"If more residents use the devices, we can cut out the guess work and send our ground search and rescue teams directly to the location of the SOS signal saving time, which is precious during these investigations. They're an invaluable resource," he says

That said, MacMullin suggests the devices may be underused because locals who have lived their life on the land — and who feel they know the region well — perceive its use as a sign of weakness or simply unnecessary.

Lougheed, who's very grateful to his rescuers, agrees.

"I'm starting to think some of the hunters and travellers got too much pride to take one," he says. "I mean, we all know basically where we are going on a nice day, but when you can't see nothing and there's snow and 80 km/h winds, you have a different perspective. I'm not going anywhere without it again."

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