Brussels' Mitchell, Groves reflect on HASAR storm rescue mission
BY SHAWN LOUGHLIN
Over Christmas, Jamie Mitchell and John Groves of Brussels came to the aid of an infant in need of emergency surgery and provided potentially life-saving transportation as members of Huron and Area Search and Rescue (HASAR).
As reported briefly in last week’s issue of The Citizen, volunteers from the organization stepped up to help a number of people during the storm that paralyzed much of southwestern Ontario over Christmas, including rescuing people stuck on back roads without heat and transferring patients to area hospitals for care when roads were closed to traditional vehicular traffic.
In an interview with The Citizen, Patrick Armstrong, HASAR co-founder, said that, with the storm being forecast to hit the area over the holidays, he and other representatives of the organization had been in touch with Chad Kregar, North Huron firefighter and the county’s new emergency manager and community emergency management co-ordinator, and offered the organization’s services. The pair had collaborated before in emergency situations, with HASAR volunteering to operate warming centres, supplying generators and people to staff the centres in emergency situations.
Armstrong made the same offer ahead of this holiday season storm, however, the group’s role soon expanded greatly when an infant was experiencing trauma at the Seaforth hospital and needed to be transferred to London for emergency care.
Huron County Emergency Medical Services (EMS) got in touch with HASAR representatives in the late afternoon hours of Christmas Eve and asked if the group would have the means to help transfer the child to Exeter, where an ambulance could meet the group and take the child the rest of the way to London, as the roads were in better shape between Exeter and London.
Groves and Mitchell were able to utilize a SHERP all-terrain vehicle that had been loaned to the organization by Country Corners in Exeter. The machine was stored at the Brussels fire hall and Mitchell and Groves, who both live in Brussels, were able to get to the fire hall and drive the SHERP to Seaforth to pick up the child.
This came after the men had been trained on using the vehicle by Country Corners in case of a first-response emergency.
They made their way to Seaforth, picked up the infant, his mother, a nurse and a paramedic, and then continued on to Exeter where they were able to hand everyone off to a waiting ambulance that took them the rest of the way to London.
Groves and Mitchell have since been in touch with the child’s mother, who says everyone is doing well and that she’s tremendously grateful for the help of HASAR.
Along the way, Mitchell said in an interview with The Citizen, there were bumps and snowdrifts that were higher than the roof of the vehicle, but, for the most part, it was a smooth ride for all.
Groves agreed, although they were both surprised at how many abandoned vehicles they saw along the way, particularly between Seaforth and Exeter. At times, Groves said, the conditions were so bad that they weren’t sure if they were on road, or travelling over the roofs of abandoned vehicles, or snowdrifts, but they were able to get the patient where he needed to go, which he said was very rewarding.
Mitchell said that, while much of the work HASAR has done has involved preparation and secondary assistance, he was happy to help with this first-response task.
To safely deliver the young patient, Mitchell said, as someone with a young child at home about the same age as the patient, held an extra-special place in his heart and meant a lot to him that he found it to be very rewarding.
He said he never expected to take on an emergency situation like the one he and Groves handled over the holidays as a member of HASAR, but that he was proud to have done his part.
Groves agreed, saying that, while he didn’t necessarily expect to ever do something like this in his life, HASAR is an emergency response organization, so it shouldn’t have come as a surprise. Furthermore, he said, he was proud to be part of an operation with a happy ending.
He said that, in a volunteer capacity such as HASAR, you never want to be called to an emergency, but if you are, it’s good to know that you can help out and contribute to a positive outcome.
Armstrong said that, while he co-founded the organization in order to fill a void in Huron County in regards to emergency response, HASAR would not be successful in any way but for the high quality of volunteers that have stepped up to be part of the group and serve their community.
Every member of HASAR, he said, brings something unique and special to the table and it’s those qualities and skills that the volunteers bring that has made the organization into what it is today after being founded just a few years earlier.
To learn more about HASAR or to get involved, visit its website at hasar.ca.