POLITICS

Death of Labrador boy unites political foes on search and rescue services

03/07/2012 02:36 EST | Updated 05/07/2012 05:12 EDT
ST. JOHN'S, N.L. - The death of a Labrador boy has united Newfoundland and Labrador politicians of all stripes to push for better search and rescue services.

Premier Kathy Dunderdale's Tory government backed an amended Liberal resolution Wednesday calling for improved federal emergency response.

It includes a push for permanent search and rescue capability at 5 Wing Goose Bay in Labrador and the reversal of Ottawa's plans to close the maritime rescue sub-centre in St. John's.

The sub-centre helps co-ordinate local distress response but is slated to close later this year as part of federal spending cuts.

The original Liberal resolution, before it was amended and passed, also urged a full investigation "examining the actions of both federal and provincial agencies and their co-ordination and communications."

But Dunderdale said her government has already acted.

"Mr. Speaker, the whole province has been gripped by this terrible tragedy and this loss of life far too soon," she said in the legislature.

"Immediately we undertook a review of our own protocol and that process is ongoing. We will continue to look for ways to improve services in search and rescue in our province."

Dunderdale said she also asked the federal government to review related protocols, which it is doing.

Fourteen-year-old Burton Winters of Makkovik was reported missing on Jan. 29. His body was discovered on Feb. 1, about a 19-kilometre walk over jagged ice and snow from his abandoned snowmobile on the frozen Labrador Sea.

His family has raised questions about why it took two days for military aircraft to join the search. Military officials have said equipment malfunctions and poor weather delayed their arrival and that nothing they could have done differently would have saved the boy.

"Family and friends of Burton Winters believe that much more could have been done to prevent this tragedy," said Liberal member Randy Edmunds as he presented the resolution.

Edmunds represents the Torngat Mountains district in Labrador and is a friend of the family. He was aboard the civilian helicopter that found the boy's body.

The government proposed several changes to the Liberal resolution, including deleting a phrase that "assets were not adequately deployed during the search for Burton Winters."