Atlin pilot saves four

While most people were barbecuing and drinking beer this long weekend, Jamie Tait was busy rescuing people stranded on the Taku River. "It was just the luck of the draw," said Tait, an Atlin-based helicopter pilot.

While most people were barbecuing and drinking beer this long weekend, Jamie Tait was busy rescuing people stranded on the Taku River.

“It was just the luck of the draw,” said Tait, an Atlin-based helicopter pilot.

On Friday, Tait was making a scheduled pickup of a father and son who were sport fishing on the Nakina River.

As they loaded everything into the helicopter, another group fishing on the river asked Tait if he had heard about a boat coming upriver.

Two friends who were supposed to meet them with a jet boat were almost a day overdue.

No one was too worried yet.

“The weather had been poor, so they thought maybe they had waited,” said Tait.

He put the word out and started to organize a reconnaissance flight.

It wasn’t long before another pilot, Jim Brooks, said that he thought he had seen the boat.

No one had reported it missing yet, but Tait contacted the RCMP and told them that he would make a detour on his way out to a mining camp and take a run down the river.

It was about 9 p.m. when Tait spotted the boat about 100 kilometers from town.

“About a mile below the boat I saw a yellow lifejacket hanging from the trees,” he said. “And shortly after I saw the lifejacket, one of the fellows came out of the trees.”

But he was alone.

“This guy had had a pretty rough ride in the river and used a cooler and stuff to keep himself floating,” said Tait. “He was lucky to be alive.”

The day before, their boat had broken down in a bad stretch of the river.

“Without any power on the boat they couldn’t stay out of the cliff wall and they went in there and it rolled over,” said Tait.

They had an emergency GPS locator but when the boat went over, the device sent out a signal indicating that everything was OK.

When Tait picked the first guy up he said that he had seen his friend pull himself out near the cliffs where they went over.

Sure enough, when they flew back up river they found him.

The pair had spent about 30 hours in the bush.

It wasn’t the best night to be stuck out there, said Tait.

“There’s bear tracks in the sand and it rained pretty good that night,” he said. “The one fellow, the guy that was up on the cliff, he had no way of making a fire.

“It was warm enough the day before, they were both able to get dried out a bit, but it’s pretty exposed and there was easily a 30-knot wind going in the valley.”

It wasn’t just tough physically, but psychologically as well.

“Neither one knew if the other one was alive, so that was a big deal,” said Tait.

Tait flew the pair to the spot on the river where the rest of their party was camped out.

“Everybody got reunited, stories told, and they came into Atlin with me.”

That was only the first rescue flight Tait made that weekend.

The next day, he got called out to pick up two other anglers who crashed their plane in the Taku River when they tried to land on a gravel bar.

That rescue was far less dramatic.

The pair only spent about three hours waiting for help.

“There was an air tour going on to see the Taku River Valley and ice fields and all that, so about 15 airplanes flew overtop of them,” said Tait. “We knew they were there; the only delay in picking them up was we were trying to get it organized through the rescue coordination centre.”

It seems a bad gust of wind forced the plane into the water when the pilot was trying to land, said Tait.

The only thing injured in the crash was their pride, he said.

“They weren’t even banged up. They just didn’t catch any fish,” he said.

While Tait has flown rescue missions before, he’s never had to fly two in one weekend.

“Things just sort of fell together,” he said.

But next weekend he doesn’t expect to be any more restful.

“It’s music fest, so I don’t think it’s going to be any quieter,” he said.

Contact Josh Kerr at joshk@yukon-news.com

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Kimberly Armstrong, creator of Glimmer of Hope, poses for a photo with examples of toys for packages she is putting together. The care packages are for children who have suffered abuse, trauma, illness or sudden loss. (Kimberly Armstrong/Submitted)
Kids experiencing trauma will receive gifts from new charity

A Whitehorse woman is compiling care packages for children who have suffered… Continue reading

Sport Yukon held its 45th annual Member Awards on Dec. 3, recognizing the achievements of nearly 80 athletes, coaches, volunteers and administrators from 16 different organizations. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Sport Yukon hands out the hardware, virtually

Awards ceremony recognizes athletes, coaches, volunteers and administrators

Commissioner of Yukon Anglique Bernard, in her role as Chancellor of the Order of Yukon, announced the 2020 Order of the Yukon inductees in a statement Dec. 2. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Order of Yukon inductees announced

Ten Yukoners will receive territory’s highest honour

The primary goal of the new relief package for tourism operators is to support the tourism sector, whether they’re private industry or not-for-profit organizations, said Tourism and Culture Minister Jeanie McLean. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Relief program offers funds for businesses that rely on tourists for more than half their revenue

Two new streams of funding, in addition to the accommodation relief program, were announced

Yukonomist Keith Halliday
YUKONOMIST: Climate emergency, lite edition

Back in September 2019, Whitehorse City Council declared a climate emergency, to… Continue reading

A sign outside the Yukon Inn Convention Centre indicates Yukoners can get a flu vaccine inside. As of Dec. 4, the vaccinations won’t be available at the convention centre. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Whitehorse Convention Centre ends flu vaccination service early

Flu vaccinations won’t be available at the Whitehorse Convention Centre after Dec.… Continue reading

In 1909, Joseph Kavetzki took over Brown’s Harness Shop, depicted here, reconstructed, 90 years later. Third Avenue in Dawson, south of Princess Street, was the heart of the blue collar industrial section of gold rush Dawson. (Michael Gates/Yukon News)
History Hunter: The Yukon is rich in hidden history

I had worked for a few months in my new position as… Continue reading

asdf
Today’s mailbox: Kindness, shingles and speed limits

Letters to the editor published Dec. 4, 2020

ASDF
COMMENTARY: Land use planning must include industry

Carl Schulze Special to the News This commentary is a response to… Continue reading

Whitehorse City Hall. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
City hall, briefly

A look at decisions made by Whitehorse city council this week

Nominations continue to be open for Northern Tutchone members of the White River First Nation to run for councillors in the 2021 election. (Maura Forrest/Yukon News File)
White River First Nation to elect new chief and council

Nominations continue to be open for Northern Tutchone members of the White… Continue reading

The Town of Watson Lake has elected John Devries as a new councillor in a byelection held Dec. 3. (Wikimedia Commons)
Watson Lake elects new councillor

The Town of Watson Lake has elected John Devries as a new… Continue reading

The new Little Salmon Carmacks First Nation council elected Dec. 1. (Submitted)
Little Salmon Carmacks elects new chief, council

Nicole Tom elected chief of Little Salmon Carcmacks First Nation

Most Read