NWT Tourism defends operators after YK tourists stranded

Great Slave Lake.
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Tourism officials are standing by Yellowknife operators after a recent fishing trip went wrong.

Over the weekend, two tourists and a local operator were stranded along Great Slave Lake when the boat they were on ran low on fuel and went way off course.

The three boaters left Yellowknife on Friday morning intent on returning that same night.

But their day trip turned into a weekend voyage when the operator of the boat decided to head towards the East Arm after they had been fishing in the North Arm. In the process, all three boaters failed to inform anyone of the change of plans.

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With a return trip ruled out because of low fuel, the operator head towards shore where the group would spend all of Saturday.

RCMP Constable Elenore Sturko
RCMP Constable Elenore Sturko.

Late that night, the operator was able to make radio contact and inform search and rescue teams that they were at Grypson Point, more than 20 nautical miles from where they were supposed to be.

Following a night of bad weather, the boaters were picked up by helicopter on Sunday morning. All three were reportedly in good condition.

Here in Yellowknife, police admit the situation could’ve turned out a whole lot worse. RCMP Constable Elenore Sturko told Moose FM situations like this are a good reminder to have a plan before heading out on the lake.

“By the time they were found, they were well away from where the search pattern was actually being executed so you can see how this is a good message for people to have a plan.

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“Tell that plan to someone who’s going to be watching out for you to ensure that you arrive safely at home on time.

“If you’re going to make any changes to that plan, you need to update the people who will be your point of contact in town.

“But because the information wasn’t updated, valuable resources, man hours and indeed risks were taken looking in an area that wasn’t correct because the information that person gave wasn’t updated properly.”

NWT Tourism executive director Kathy Bolstad.
NWT Tourism executive director Cathie Bolstad.

Cathie Bolstad, executive director of NWT Tourism, expressed concern for the safety of the boaters but also admitted to being caught off guard by the incident given the dependability of Yellowknife tour operators.

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“We have so many excellent and reliable tour operators in the Northwest Territories and we know, from working with them, that they deliver excellent day-trip experiences so this really was a surprise.

While NWT Tourism is the advertising agency for the territory’s tourism sector, the GNWT is responsible for issuing licenses.

As part of that process, Bolstad told us all tourism operators are required to file emergency and safety plans as part of its license.

“Ensuring that those safe plans are alive, understood and activated when they are out is so important,” she said. “As most Northwest Territories residents know, Great Slave Lake is really big and the weather can change at the drop of the hat.”

Despite this incident, Bolstad still has the utmost confidence in all NWT tour operators.

“I think this is an isolated incident and I don’t think we should let isolated incidents overshadow a history or spectacular tours and great operators.

“We want the visitor experience to be a safe one and for our guests to come here it’s of paramount importance to them as well.

“If we, as the industry organization, learn anything from this that we can share for the growth and the benefit of all our members, we will do that.”

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