Missing Pond Inlet man walks safely into Repulse Bay
‘I am happy to be alive! Love you all,’ says Brian Koonoo on Facebook after week long ordeal
CBC News, May 20, 2015
Brian Koonoo, a 36-year-old man from Pond Inlet, Nunavut, walked safely into Repulse Bay Wednesday morning after four days of air and ground searches were unable to locate him.
Koonoo, who works for Parks Canada, originally set out on snowmobile from Pond Inlet on May 10. He arrived in Igloolik May 12 and spent the night before heading on to Hall Beach the next day, according to Nunavut RCMP.
He’d already travelled at least 450 kilometres when he left Hall Beach on May 13, en route to Repulse Bay.
When he didn’t arrive on Friday, May 15, RCMP were advised that he may be missing. A search was initiated, and the Joint Rescue Coordination Centre in Trenton, Ont. was called for help Saturday night.
Search efforts followed over the next four days from both the air and ground, but were hampered by below zero temperatures and blowing snow, as well as the change in season.
‘I am happy to be alive!’
Koonoo says he dropped his SSB radio en route to Repulse Bay, and his snowmobile broke down. He was carrying a GPS, but it ran out of batteries, so he navigated using Google Maps on his phone.
“Waited for three days but no one was finding me and I ran out of naptha [sic],” he said in a Facebook post. “So I had to walk three days, 60 km to get here. Slept in snow caves.”
In Inuktitut, Koonoo told CBC he left his makeshift camp on the evening of May 17, taking advantage of a break in the wind. He saw search planes flying overhead and used his knife to try and catch the light — and their attention — but was unable to.
An experienced hunter, Koonoo left Pond Inlet with a five-metre long sled full of supplies. However, once he set out on foot, he only brought what he needed, leaving his food supplies behind and carrying his knife and rifle.
Nearing Repulse Bay but running out of energy on Tuesday night, Koonoo “made it to a cabin close by and slept there,” according to his Facebook post.
Koonoo arrived in Repulse Bay at approximately 5:30 a.m. local time Wednesday morning. He told CBC that when he got to the community, he was worried about waking people up. Seeing a taxi, he “figured the taxi people would be up.”
“They were sleeping, but someone woke up,” he continued. “They were part of the search team.”
During his ordeal, Koonoo says he was thinking of his wife and five daughters, knowing that they wanted to see him again. When he was finally able to call home, they were crying and overjoyed to hear his voice, he said.
Koonoo apologized for making people worry, and when asked for advice by CBC, he simply said, in Inuktitut, “Don’t give up.”
“I am happy to be alive!” read the end of Koonoo’s Facebook post. “Love you all, thank you for thinking of me.”