The tragic death of 14-year-old Burton Winters has resonated across the nation, particularly though, in his home province of Newfoundland and Labrador.
People across the province are left with many questions about the death of the young boy from Makkovik who went out on his snowmobile and never came home.
“I get stomach sick over it,” said Cynthia Faulkner. She was one of about a dozen people who gathered in the pouring rain last Saturday morning in Grand Falls-Windsor in front of Riff’s furniture store on Main Street.
Armed with brightly coloured rain garb, wielding signs scrawled with messages like “fix our Search and Rescue” and “inquiry needed,” the group would embark on a 5 km walk down the Town’s longest street. They were marching in unison with groups across the province and country as a peaceful rally for answers. They, like so many others, want to know why the country’s Search and Rescue system failed young Winters, so that the same tragedy never burdens another family.
“What happened with Burton Winters should never have happened, he should have been rescued,” she said.
Faulkner, a mother and grandmother herself, paused for a second and added, “it could have happened to somebody belonged to us.”
Faulkner said her main point of protest in organizing the Grand Falls-Windsor arm of the march is the incessant finger-pointing going on between different levels of government as to why it took two days for military aircraft to join the search for Winters, and why provincial emergency services weren’t contacted until the morning after he was reported missing.
“It’s like a web nobody can get out of. We need this government to establish a public inquiry so at least the family and the rest of us has answers to this.”
This weekend’s protest came on the heels of media reports that a fisherman on the water near Twillingate called for medical help for his ailing father, only to have his call re-directed to a centre in Rome. Last year, the federal government shut down Maritime Rescue Sub-Centre in St. John’s.
“Search and Rescue is not here for us,” said Faulkner. “We feel like we’re nothing – freeze to death, drown, (they) don’t care. We just want things to change for the better for all of us.”
Tony Walsh of Grand Falls-Windsor also braved Saturday’s foul weather to be part of the walk.
“Burton walked 19 km in the freezing cold before he died, what’s 5 km in the rain?” he said.
Walsh said with so many men and women in the province whose livelihoods require them to venture into the wilderness, more focus needs to be put on improving Search and Rescue services in Newfoundland and Labrador.
“I think it’s time for people in central to start expressing their thoughts on these things, we’re known here for not doing anything about these issues,” he said. “I think it’s time for us to start jumping up and down and shouting to help our fisherman. To show them we do care, and we are behind them.”