On Monday, September 4th around 4:00 p.m., RCMP dispatchers were advised of an S.O.S. message from a satellite communication device. The message contained GPS coordinates for an isolated mountainous area between the end of Annie Lake Road and Bennett Lake near Carcross.
Attempts were made by RCMP to locate the registered owner, family members or other contact persons in order to gather further information. Unfortunately, no additional details were available.
Given the isolated location indicated on the S.O.S. message, the RCMP's Divisional Search and Rescue Coordinator organized a search party and dispatched a helicopter with Yukon Search and Rescue volunteers on board.
Carcross RCMP were also dispatched to the Annie Lake Road area, to provide support on the ground, should it be required.
While on route to the location, two additional S.O.S. messages came in from the same device, showing that it was moving slowly.
Around 7:15 p.m., shortly after advising the helicopter and search party of the new GPS coordinates, a Carcross RCMP officer stationed at Annie Lake Road located a couple from Whitehorse driving out of the area.
The couple indicated they had not sent an S.O.S., however they checked their device in their pack and realized that some of their gear had accidentally been hitting the S.O.S button while they were hiking in the mountains.
So far this year, Yukon RCMP has responded to 20 search and rescue type incidents in the territory. These can include locating a missing person or overdue hunter, responding to a distress signal from a communication device, rescuing stranded hikers or boaters, and more. Accidental distress calls don't occur regularly, but they are not uncommon. In recent years, they have represented approximately 5% of search and rescue type calls the Yukon RCMP responds to.
With fall activities and hunting season well underway, the Yukon RCMP and Yukon Search and Rescue are taking this opportunity to remind the public of how important it is to carry your communication device on your person, and ensure your contact information is up to date.
"In the event you have to drop your pack in an emergency, get separated from your group, or lose your supplies unexpectedly, having your satellite communication device, a fire-starting kit and basic safety gear on your person will give you the means to call for help and keep warm," said Corporal Cam Long, Yukon RCMP's Divisional Search and Rescue Coordinator.
"Another critical point to remember when heading out into the Yukon wilderness is to leave a trip plan with a family member or friend," said Yukon SAR prevention coordinator Mike Fancie. "Let them know where you're going, how long you're expected to be there, and when you're due back. That way, if you don't return on time, agencies can be alerted as quickly as possible."
Search and rescue operations in the Yukon are a team effort. As the lead agency for search and rescue in the Yukon, the RCMP regularly works in partnership with Yukon Search and Rescue, Civil Air Search and Rescue Association, Yukon Emergency Measures Organization, Environment Yukon Conservation Officers, Yukon Energy, Mines and Resources Officers, Yukon Wildland Fire Management crews, First Nation communities, Wilderness Tourism Association of the Yukon, and MANY more partners to ensure the safe return of lost, missing and stranded persons in the Yukon.