424 Squadron's Sgt. Janick Gilbert died during a rescue operation in October 2011
Credits: PHOTO SUPPLIED
Sgt. Janick Gilbert, 34, of Baie-Comeau, QC was one of eight search-and-rescue personnel recognized for bravery by the Guild of Air Pilots and Air Navigators in London on Tuesday.
On Oct. 27, an air search team responded to a distress call and located the stranded walrus hunters -- an Inuit father and son. They dropped a radio to them to keep in contact. But when communications failed and the hunters were believed to be hypothermic, Gilbert, the team leader, and two other search-and-rescue members parachuted to the boat in high winds and high seas.
Gilbert, based out of Trenton, ON, is believed to have landed the farthest away from the boat, and ended up stranded in the icy water while wearing a dry suit that may not have been suited for Arctic conditions, a defence department report said.
Gilbert was found five hours later, but couldn't be revived.
The hunters were treated for minor injuries after being airlifted to a medical centre in the hamlet of Igloolik.
The rescue operation took a total of 18 hours.
"This award highlights the exemplary skill, service, and sacrifice that our men and women in the Canadian Forces demonstrate every day, whether on missions around the world or across this vast country," said Defence Minister Peter MacKay in a release.
The gallantry awards are presented to aviators around the world to recognize them heroism and professionalism.