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Police, HERO perform nighttime rescue on Athabasca River

Last Updated Aug 13, 2020 at 12:16 pm MDT

PHOTO. Helicopter H135 performing a medevac in Janvier, about 95 kilometres south of Fort McMurray on the night of Dec. 12, 2019. Supplied by the Local HERO Foundation/Twitter.

Wood Buffalo RCMP said they rescued two adult male residents on the Athabasca River.

On Aug. 11, 2020, after 11:00 p.m., police responded to a distress call from one of the men.

The 50-year-old man and his 70-year-old friend went to the river to do some fishing, but they became lost and could not return to their vehicle.

Partnering with Fort McMurray Search and Rescue, RCMP ventured to the location north of Fort McMurray to begin the search.

Several attempts to retrieve the men overland were unsuccessful due to poor terrain and inclement weather.

Search and Rescue

Paul Spring, Chair of the Local HERO Foundation, said police called Phoenix Heli-Flight for assistance at 4:00 a.m.

He said during the search it was believed the 70-year-old man was in some difficulty.

“When HERO1 was first requested by the RCMP, we were asked if we could come up and use our night vision goggles to aid in finding these two individuals. The men [were instructed] to light a fire to make it easier for the helicopter to locate them because we work on light amplification so a light source like a fire would be like a beacon for the pilots in the aircraft.”

Soon after 4:30 a.m., Spring said HERO1 flew north to the search location and spotted the fire and the two men.

“It only took about a minute for the pilots onboard using their goggles to find the fire [they] had lit, hovered over their location, got a GPS coordinate which was relayed back to the ground so that RCMP and Fort McMurray Search and Rescue could actually walk into them.”

At 7:16 a.m. on Aug. 12, RCMP extracted both men by boat.

Police confirmed both men were in good health.


Spring said Phoenix Heli-Flight assists in search and rescue operations as well as medevac.