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10/01/23: Huron Search and Rescue team saves lives during Christmas snow storm

Emma MacNeil is beyond thankful for the strangers that saved her six-month-old son’s life this past Christmas.

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They said if we're stuck there [at home] he likely would have gone septic. At six months old, it’s hugely life threatening. Very, very lucky to have them,” said MacNeil.

An accident on Christmas Eve at the family’s home in Seaforth, left Beckham MacNeil in need of emergency surgery.

But an epic snowstorm that forced county-wide road closures that day left the MacNeils with no way to make it to the Children’s Hospital in London.

Ambulances couldn’t make it and plows couldn’t either because of abandoned vehicles on the closed roads.

Enter, the Huron and Area Search and Rescue Team (HASAR) — the volunteer organization was on standby during the storm with an Argo all-terrain vehicle at their disposal, based in Brussels.

“We knew we had to help. We had the capabilities to help, so there was no hesitation. It was a call we had to do,” said one of HASAR’s Argo pilots, Jamie Mitchell.

Mitchell, and fellow HASAR volunteer John Groves picked up the MacNeil’s at the Seaforth hospital, in the huge Argo and drove them through 30 kilometres of blizzard conditions, abandoned vehicles and closed roads, to the Exeter hospital — where an ambulance could get them to the Children’s Hospital in London for emergency surgery.

“It was an interesting ride. There were a lot of huge drifts and cars people had abandoned, because they got stuck,” said Groves.

“At one point, we came across a bunch of vehicles blocking the road and it just goes out and around them. It’s an amazing, amazing vehicle to be able to do that,” said MacNeil.

The Argo, which is at HASAR’s disposal during emergencies, courtesy of Country Corners Rent-All in Exeter, wasn’t just used to help the MacNeil’s, it was used plenty during the Christmas snowstorm.

“We had a couple other medical calls and picking some people up who had stayed in their cars and were running out of fuel. So we had to go get them to the warming stations. It was busy,” said Groves.

By Christmas morning, Beckham had his emergency surgery and was on the road to recovery. His mom, thankful beyond measure, for the kindness of people she didn’t know, who risked their own lives to help them.

“We were really, really lucky everywhere along the way for the kindness of strangers. Having that [the Argo] available for my baby was unreal. I’m so grateful, to have to have access to it,” said MacNeil.

“It felt good to do what we’re here to do and be able to assists in a time of need,” Mitchell added.

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