Police have provided more detail about a search-and-rescue operation in which they rescued two groups trying to travel on the closed winter road to the NWT’s diamond mines.
The road officially closed on March 31. All those involved in Tuesday’s operation – four adults and a child – were safely rescued. A third party of two people made their own way back to Yellowknife.
RCMP urged people to respect winter road closure dates. “We cannot impress enough, the need for travellers to avoid travelling on the closed roads,” read a statement.
On Wednesday afternoon, police described in more detail an operation to rescue the groups, who were stranded in the area of MacKay Lake.
RCMP described learning from the territory’s Department of Environmental and Natural Resources, at 8am on Tuesday, that “overdue travellers” were believed to be on or near the closed Tibbitt to Contwoyto winter road.
The groups were “from the Tłı̨chǫ and Yellowknife region,” police said. No further detail was given about their identities or their reason for being on the road.
“Inclement weather conditions had impacted the ability to travel on the winter road system and, with temperatures set to plummet overnight, there was some urgency to locate the parties,” said police.
A helicopter left Yellowknife for MacKay Lake at 10:45am on Tuesday, locating two of the three groups – four adults and a child – east of the lake by 2:30pm that day.
While the first helicopter took the child to safety, police dispatched a second helicopter for the remaining adults.
The final two travellers were “located safe and in good condition” on the winter road south of Lockhart Lake. They were “able to return to Yellowknife of their own accord,” said police.
Those people transported by helicopter arrived back in Yellowknife before 8pm on Tuesday, with no injuries reported.
The cost of the search operation, and who will ultimately foot the bill, was not immediately clear.
MacKay Lake is the fifth-largest lake in the Northwest Territories. It lies around 250 km northeast of Yellowknife, just south of the Ekati and Diavik diamond mines.