Thursday, February 16, 2012

A letter from Burton Winter's grandmother: Defence Department's search and rescue response was 'criminal'

I was forwarded the following letter today (Feb. 16th), part of a 'campaign' for imporved search and rescue services in northern Labrador.

I am writing this letter to express my disgust at my government’s failure to respond to an emergency request, which resulted in the death of my grandson, Burton Winters.

How is it possible in this day and age, the 21st century where technology and services are at their best, that calls for help to emergency services fails and a 14 -year old child dies as a result?
Where is the accountability in these failures: failure to respond when the initial call for help was made and then failures evidenced in the multiple excuses that have been subsequently provided?

The Department of National Defense’s response (or lack there-of) is criminal to say the least.

Where is the accountability? How come nobody has been reprimanded in this situation? How come nobody (Mr. Gardem, Mr. MacKay, Mr. Harper) has owned up to the huge mistakes that they have made. You have all failed Burton.

How is it possible that you fail to acknowledge that there is a need for improved search and rescue in our region (NL), more specifically northern Labrador? We need improved and/or renewed search and rescue in our region, not downgrading or elimination of it.

You continue to fail us, Burton’s family who are left behind to pick up the pieces after this horrific tragedy. Your excuses have been many, have been contradicting, and have made no sense at all. They are full of loopholes. Your intelligence must see that. Maybe you think that we are not intelligent enough to see how foolish your excuses are. Maybe you think that the idiotic excuses that you have given is enough for us and maybe you think these public statements that you have provided will suffice and that we will go away. Be rest assured, we will not go away.

We, the family of Burton’s family will never stop grieving him. We cannot bring him back. His death and the circumstances surrounding your involvement, I mean lack of involvement has struck a chord not only the communities of Labrador North but the province of NL as a whole, Canada and world-wide. This will not go away.

We will never stop grieving our little boy and we will never stop asking for sensible answers to our questions. We will not stop until we get action for much-needed search and rescue services for Labrador. We will not stop until we get effective, efficient and adequate search and rescue for our region, Northern Labrador and our province as a whole.

It is not right that my beautiful, little grandson has become a poster boy of just how inadequate search and rescue is in northern Labrador. We cannot get Burton back. What we can do as Canadian citizens, as taxpayers is to fight for “expected” rights and privileges as enjoyed ALL Canadian citizens? Stop treating us as second-class citizens!

Burton will never graduate from high school. He will never receive hugs from his baby brother, Elliott. He will never marry. We will never see what a productive, young man he was destined to be. Instead, he has become a poster boy of just how inadequate emergency services are within our coastal Labrador communities. That was not supposed to be his legacy but it has turned out to be. We, his family left behind to pick up the pieces following his tragic death, will not stop fighting to have adequate emergency services so that no other family will have to suffer as we are.

Respectfully submitted,

Charlotte Winters-Fost,
South River, NL


P.Russell said...

Very well spoken letter with important and significant points. None of us should be treated as second class citizens, especially a 14-year old boy whose family got nothing but pathetic answers! Even though I didn't know Burton I think of him every day and what his family is going though, knowing it could have been any one of us out there without any help. My deepest condolences go out to Burton Winters family as everyone here on the Big Land is showing support for this young brave man and coming together to finish his walk to make sure this never happens again! SAR IN LABRADOR!

Elizabeth Rice said...

When Burton was reported missing..Fire and Emergency NL(FES/Provincial) after being contacted by the RCMP on Jan 30, Mon called the Joint Rescue Coordinator Center(JRCC/FEDERAL) and JRCC stated they couldn't go due to weather, the problem with the helicoptor gone and the other needing work and asked them to get a civilian aircraft because their standards are different for flying etc..they then asked Fire and Emergency NL to call back if assistance was required...not good enough for sure

Barry Lyall said...

Hugs to Charlotte and Family !!! Charlotte is right you have underminded our integrity and our intelligence...We wont go away until we are treated like humans and you admit to your mistakes and fix them with 24 hour a day 7 days a week 365 days a year SAR Search and Rescue Helicopter and crew located at CFB Goose Bay, Labrador for Labrador.

Laura Winters said...

Very well spoken, said, and valueable statements...if they really did ''all that they could'' it would be a different outcome, I realize they cannot save on each and every rescue, but did they give it an honest effort?? they HAVE failed in their profession, to me, its a domino effect, one after one they try to save their own hide and try to cover up the mistakes, excuse after excuse, it does not take away the common factor, and bottom line they simply did not do their best, or an honest effort. I've wondered, has any official lost sleep because of it? Have they even given a second thought, I never got to meet him but my heart is truly broken over the loss, it doesnt take much to shed tears for a young man who needed help, and never got it, knowing what he went through, what he was determined to do-to take one step after the other in a fight for his life, where were these 'professionals' at the time, at home with loved one's? living their lives while Burton was out fighting for his.....changes HAVE to be made, and I agree, I posted a comment on CBCp.o.v which never aired, in this day of modern technology, its amazing how we are still in many ways, still so far behind, it should never be, we have rights, we are people too, no matter where we live, it shouldnt limit our ability to what other canadians have, safety

Gerry in GFW, NL said...

I have never met Burton, but I can only imagine how strong he must have been to be able to walk nearly 20 KM. I do believe that if SAR had made an honest effort that there would have been a haapy ending to this story & Burton would be safe at home with his family. In my opinion, I think first off DND & SAR owe the family an apology. Secondly, there should be a SAR response team placed in Labrador.

To Burton's family, my condolences to you. You will stay in my prayers.

Anonymous said...

I one hundred percent support everything said in your letter, Charlotte! Burton should NOT be a poster boy! He should be with his family and friends right now! I do hope that a SAR helicopter will be stationed in Labrador. This isn't the way it should have been requested though. But, it's too late for how that happened. I give my love and support to Burton's family, and hope to see positive results very soon. Xoxo <3

Susan Webb
Originally from Nain, Nunatsiavut

Robyn Holwell said...

They can pick up the Minister of Defence and take him to the airport but they couldn't go search for that poor little boy because it wasn't a "priority" or their "primary mission", in Admiral Gardam's own words. SHAMEFUL.

Anonymous said...

Well spoken! In my opinion it seems that we the people of Labrador are less important to these people. I mean one of the excuses used was there wasn't a second call made....Really when I call 911 I don't have to call twice or the fire department, so why would anyone have to call SAR TWICE... Last I checked 911 and the fire department acts on the first call WHAT'S SO SPECIAL ABOUT SAR, WHY DO THEY GET TO GET TWO CALLS. Wasn't a missing 14 year old boy as important as a 86 year old man/woman having a heart attack, or a burning building with no one in it? I THINK THAT THAT EXCUSE IS BS! When that one call was made SAR should respond the same as any other emergency department. They should have the same protocol 1 CALL AND EMERGENCY SERVICES SHOULD BE RECEIVED. And I'm sorry but another more important emergency might come up.... What's more important than a 14 year old boys life.... the war in afghanistan not our war why are we fighting it and losing our children because of it... We need our own search and rescue with our own people working it then we know this won't happen again. IT SHOULD HAVE NEVER EVER HAPPENED IN THE FIRST PLACE. SAR should be investigated by an outside department and finally give the greiving family their answers not just some bs story that don't make sence... just the truth! JUST SAYIN'!