MCTS Officers on the Job

George Andrews: OIC Labrador MCTS Centre

On March 19, 1999 a twin engine otter crashed in Davis Inlet with loss of life. At 1409 UTC, Labrador MCTS Centre staff received the initial call from Mr. Carl Knight an employee of Inter-Provincial Airlines which runs the air service into Davis Inlet. He advised us of the missed approach, loss of VHF communications, that there was a loud bang heard a few seconds later and the possibility of a crash of that aircraft, out in the bay near the airfield.

As with any incident, the MCTS Officers on duty went through the process of gathering as much information as possible and then alerted SAR.

I spoke with Mr. Knight after the plane was located, only to find that there was one person deceased and the other was in the nursing station. As a result of the crash the demand on the phone lines, in and out of the community, made it impossible for the nursing station to communicate with anyone. The nurse in Davis Inlet wanted to speak with the doctor on board the medical evacuation helicopter enroute to the community. Mr. Gary Parsons (CG Technician) and myself took a couple of handheld radios and went to the dispatch office of Canadian Helicopters and we began phone patching through our local VHF between the doctor and the nurse in Davis Inlet. This went on for approximately 4 hours. Newfoundland telephone kept a line dedicated to the nurse in Davis Inlet and Labrador MCTS Centre. The helicopter arrived in Davis Inlet after a harrowing affair in extremely bad weather.

I had asked Mr. Knight how he came to call us? His response was " I tried through the operator to get the airport and see if they could contact the aircraft; but she couldn't get through. I told her to put me through to the Coast Guard in Goose Bay." The rest is history.

Sometimes we wonder about the current organizational and budgetary problems; but it takes an incident like this to bring things back into focus. In Labrador, for Coast Guard, and more specifically Marine Communications & Traffic Services, to be the first point of contact, shows a tremendous confidence in our ability and our system.

From time to time we need a reality check that serves to bounce us back to what we are trying to do. We need the resources to continue to ensure that this public and client confidence and our ability do not falter. Unfortunately we are in the business that these checks usually are a result of the loss of life.

We all know the benefits of our distress and safety, vessel screening, marine safety information, vessel traffic regulation, and public correspondence service. So when we sit down to decide what and where we should cut and how we can save to meet unrealistic notional budget figures we should remember that for only approximately 4 million dollars the client/users of our excellent system receive the benefits.

MCTSO John Mitchell, with assistance of MCTSO Lloyd Pardy should be commended for an excellent job!

Bob Schafer: MCTSO - Tofino MCTS Centre

A DSC alert was received by the MCTS centre in Tofino which included only a position and the Maritime Mobile Service Identity (MMSI) number of the originating vessel. The information was quickly passed on to RCC Seattle who subsequently deployed rescue personnel. This VHF-DSC case was handled by MCTS Tofino due to the fact that the equipment is part of the AIS project which provides this capability. Mike Voigt, Search & Rescue, Ottawa commented that "This appears like a text book case of responding to the ever-increasing DSC distress alerts." and "this was an excellent response to this case (even though it turned out to be a false alarm - again). Thank you Tofino"

Jacques Beaulieu and Claude Beaudet: MCTSOs Quebec MCTS Centre

At about 3:00 p.m., the winds shifted to the NE, 25 to 30 k. There were a large number of pleasure boaters on the region's lakes.

At 3:14 p.m Jacques Beaulieu received a MAYDAY call and learned that 2 kayakers were in trouble one kilometre from Île à Deux Têtes in the Montmagny archipelago. Their kayaks had capsized and were filling up with water. Fortunately, one of them had a portable VHF marine radio.

MRSC was notified at once and MCTS transmitted a MAYDAY RELAY. Claude Beaudet, on duty in sector 3, contacted the available resources: the Lachance 3 and the France des Mers set out for the scene of the accident.

The CCGS Sterne, which set out from Quebec City, had to turn back at Pointe-St-Jean because the water was too rough. The helicopter GC126 and that of the Sir John Franklin, GC364, also headed for the scene of the accident, along with an Armed Forces helicopter from Bagotville.

Two kayakers were sighted on a rock and GC126 managed to land to recover them.

During that time, GC364 located two other people in the water and hovered over them until the Rescue 419 arrived. Equipped with a winch, it recovered them at 4:38 p.m. They suffered from moderate to severe hypothermia and were taken to the Enfant Jésus hospital.

Reporters were interested in the story until they learned that everything was okay. No deaths to report on the 6:00 o'clock news.

We know, however, that it was a close call for the young people, who had just enough energy to cling to life.

Without wishing to detract from the merit due to the rescuers at the scene, and they certainly deserve a lot, it is important to point out that MCTS officers were the first link in the chain of rescue operations. They did their job effectively and were proactive from start to finish.

Allan Hughes: MCTSO - Tofino MCTS Centre

On January 16, 1997, at 0618 PST, Tofino MCTS advised the Rescue Coordination Centre that a US fishing vessel was possibly in distress in near hurricane force winds and heavy seas, well off shore Northwest of Cape Scott. This resulted in the launch of a massive search which, at the onset, utilized a number of commercial deep sea vessels... The main communication link at the onset was Tofino MCTS which, at the time, was manned by only one operator, Mr. Allan Hughes. Despite the fact Mr. Hughes was required to carry out his regular duties, broadcast a Mayday relay as well as maintain communications with a variety of vessels (and nationalities) involved in the search there was no significant delay in the information flow. This is a credit to Mr. Hughes" level of professionalism, expertise and dedication.

Dave Dillon: MCTSO - Prescott MCTS Centre

The following is an excerpt from a letter of appreciation from an incident that occurred August 1996:

"We were about 2 or 3 miles out from Kempenfelt Bay when we lost engine power. After several hours of hoping someone would come our way we decided to try the CB radio on board. Contact was made with the MCTS centre in Prescott. The weight of gloom was lifted, and even the thunder to the south didn't sound so ominous. Your communications reassured the young ones on board, all under the age of twelve, that all would be well and that help was coming. Just at dusk.....the MCTS arranged a rescue for us. MCTS were in communication with us until we were docked that evening and again the next morning making certain our arrangements to be towed home were met. We were so relieved that such an essential service existed and that our experience didn't turn into a nightmare."

Ruth Hoover: MCTSO - Prescott MCTS Centre

On November 20th, 1996 a motor vessel tried unsuccessfully to contact a bridge operator. Ruth Hoover, the MCTSO on duty, called the vessel and offered assistance. The pilot informed her of the unanswered calls to the bridge and that they were only 6 cables away and about ready to "back off". She immediately contacted the Bridge and advised them of the situation and was informed that their radio was turned down and they did not hear the vessel calling.

The Captain of the vessel later sent the following message: "2 nights ago a female operator helped me out immensely. I was 5 miles from the ... Bridge and called the bridge and everything was ok. When I was 1 mile out and closing fast I called and called and couldn't get the bridge operator on the radio. The MCTSO Prescott made a landline call and got the Bridge operator to come up on 16. She then called me to let me know what she had done. This action saved me from having to do an EMERGENCY DANGEROUS TURN...I appreciate what she did very much."