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Military SAR technician killed in training accident in Saskatchewan

Military SAR tech killed in training

YORKTON, Sask. — A search and rescue technician with the Royal Canadian Air Force has died in a training accident near Yorkton, Sask.

Master-Corporal Alfred Barr was a member of 435 Transport and Rescue Squadron at 17 Wing based at CFB Winnipeg.

On his Facebook page, he said he was from Lethbridge, Alta., and was engaged to be married.

The military did not release specific details of what happened in the incident on Wednesday, but said the RCAF’s Directorate of Flight Safety would be investigating.

Col. Andy Cook, commander of 17 Wing Winnipeg, said in a release that he wanted to express his condolences to Barr's family and colleagues.

Gen. Jonathan Vance, chief of National Defence staff, issued a news release late Wednesday offering similar sympathies.

"Every year, our Search and Rescue Squadrons and Technicians conduct thousands of daring exercises and real-life missions to keep Canadians safe," Vance said in the release. "This is not easy work. Today’s loss is a reflection of that selflessness that characterizes their profession."

Defence Minister Harjit S. Sajjan said he appreciates the risks that SAR techs take "day in and day out, in fair and bad weather, to come to the aid of Canadians in peril. This is exactly what Master Corporal Barr was preparing for today."

There was an outpouring of sympathy on social media for the young man and those close to him.

"A sad day for the closely knit SAR trade, who give their lives freely to rescue others," wrote Sarah Taylor Martin. "Sincerest condolences to Alfred's significant other, friends and family. Hug your loved ones closely. My own special SAR tech is in my thoughts and prayers each day."

On his Facebook page, Barr acknowledge being part of a group of search and rescue technicians who saved a family of four who were adrift overnight in Hudson Bay last summer. The family — a man, woman and two teen boys from Baker Lake in Nunavut — had been hunting narwhale when their boat suffered mechanical issues.

Barr said he got the call to go out at 3 a.m. for the mission, which was a success.

In November, there was another training death in Saskatchewan when Capt. Thomas McQueen, 29, of Hamilton, Ont., was killed in the crash of a single-seater plane participating in an exercise which involved dropping simulated bombs over a weapons range.

And in February 2015, search and rescue technician Sgt. Mark Salesse, 44, also of 17 Wing, was buried under an avalanche in Banff National Park.

A report into his death recommended more avalanche training for SAR techs.


The Canadian Press

Note to readers: This is a corrected story; an earlier version had an incorrect reference to what is accurately 17 Wing