Nunatsiaq Online
NEWS: Nunavut January 23, 2017 - 1:35 pm

Nunavut community reeling from devastating weekend tragedy

“We’re all grieving for the family,” Rankin Inlet South MLA says

NUNATSIAQ NEWS
Rankin Inlet South MLA Alexander Sammurtok speculates that sea ice between Rankin Inlet and Whale Cove may be thinner than usual this year and that the weight of a bombardier towing a heavy load may have been too much. (FILE PHOTO)
Rankin Inlet South MLA Alexander Sammurtok speculates that sea ice between Rankin Inlet and Whale Cove may be thinner than usual this year and that the weight of a bombardier towing a heavy load may have been too much. (FILE PHOTO)

(Updated 5:45. p.m.)

Residents and community leaders in Rankin Inlet are reeling in the wake of a weekend tragedy that killed three men and left one survivor after their Bombardier snow machine broke through the sea ice near Whale Cove Jan. 21.

As of Jan. 23, the RCMP has yet to identify the four men in the vehicle—aged 27 to 55—but said the group was operating an enclosed Bombardier snow machine that was towing a truck and snowmobiles from Rankin Inlet to Arviat.

The RCMP in Whale Cove learned the Bombardier had fallen through the sea ice near their community, roughly 65 kilometres south of Rankin Inlet, at about 8:30 a.m. Jan. 21.

Rankin Inlet South MLA Alexander Sammurtok said his constituents are grieving and have rallied behind the families, who have lost husbands, fathers and sons.

“The family of course are grieving and everybody else is. It’s a really, really, bad tragedy that’s happened,” Sammurtok told Nunatsiaq News by telephone from Rankin Inlet Jan. 23.

“We’re all grieving for the family, because they all had families and kids.”

Parishioners attending Sunday mass at Rankin Inlet’s Roman Catholic church were asked to pray for the grieving families.

Nunavut Premier Peter Taptuna also sent his “deepest condolences to the families of those lost in the tragic Bombardier accident near Whale Cove this weekend” late Jan. 23.

Rankin Inlet Mayor Robert Janes declined to comment when contacted Jan. 23 by Nunatsiaq News, but said that the hamlet was waiting for additional updates from the RCMP and other search and rescue agencies.

According to the RCMP’s last statement, two men from the group are “presumed deceased and have not been located,” but one man was confirmed deceased at the scene, along with the sole survivor.

Ice was late to form this winter in Hudson Bay, with ice in November there at roughly 40 per cent of its usual extent, according to the Canadian Ice Service.

Sammurtok, who spoke with local elders over the weekend, said some parts of the sea ice between Rankin Inlet and Whale Cove can remain open or thin during winter months but remain hidden under snowdrifts.

The added weight of the Bombardier and its cargo may have have been too much for an area of ice that’s generally navigable for lighter vehicles, he speculated.

“They could have been travelling over that same area [as] other snow machines, but then again they happened to be towing a truck and snow machines on their Bombardier and that could have added some weight,” Sammurtok said.

Sea ice cargo transports are common in the Kivalliq, however, in recent years, some have advocated for an all-weather road connecting the region to northern Manitoba—or even airships—as a safer alternative to travel on sea ice.

Read more on Nunatsiaq News as the story develops.

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