Canadian Rangers honoured for Resolute crash response

Unit commendation awarded for service beyond normal duty

 Investigators work at the scene of the First Air crash site in Resolute, Nunavut, in August 2011. Canadian Rangers are easily distinguished by their red hoodies. (Vincent Desrosiers/CBC)The Canadian Forces recognized the 1st Canadian Ranger Patrol Group Tuesday in Yellowknife for the role they played in the aftermath of the First Air crash in Resolute Bay, Nunavut, last August.

The Canadian Forces’ Unit Commendation honours a military unit that has performed a deed or activity considered beyond the demand of normal duty.

Canadian Rangers were in Resolute on Aug. 20, 2011, as part of the training exercise Operation Nanook, when a 737 passenger jet crashed near the airport. Twelve people on board were killed, three survived.

After the crash, rangers guarded the site 24 hours a day. Authorities investigating the crash relied on the Rangers to frighten away polar bears drawn to the site by the smell of rotting food cargo.

“It’s kind of hard to talk about,” said Ranger Jamie Fabian.

Canadian Ranger Kevin Lafferty says his colleagues should be proud of their service guarding the crash site of First Air 6560 in Resolute, Nunavut, last August. (CBC)

Ranger Kevin Lafferty said the fact that Northerners know one another, and have personal connections in many communities, made it difficult to perform their duties after the crash, but they pushed through.

“To switch gears so quickly for something so obviously so tragic, wasn’t the easiest thing,” he said. “[There were] a lot of sleepless nights initially, as everybody tried to get a handle on what had actually happened.

“Everybody did their job, their duty. For those Rangers who couldn’t be here for the ceremony today, that couldn’t make it on the flights, they should be really proud of how well they served.”

Maj. Jeff Allen, commanding officer of 1CRPG, said the honour also recognizes the group’s overall service.

“It recognizes all the hard work that the Rangers do, not just during the one incident that occurred last summer but it also recognizes the work that they do almost on a daily basis throughout the remote and isolated communities of the North,” said Allen.

The commendation includes a medallion, a scroll and a flag.

There have been five lawsuits filed in the Nunavut Court of Justice in Iqaluit in connection with the Resolute crash, four of which allege negligence on the part of the Department of National Defence, which was in control of the Resolute airport at the time due to Operation Nanook.

The Transportation Safety Board is still investigating the cause of the crash.

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