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B.C. tech recovers body after bulldozer breaks through Arctic ice and sinks

Seamor Marine remotely operated vehicle used in deepest recovery operation in RCMP history
RCMP underwater recovery team members Cpl. Todd Kaufmann, left, Cpl. Steve Wells and Const. Tim Cucheran worked with ‘Fab’, a Seamor Marine Chinook ROV to recover a bulldozer operator’s body in Nunavut in February. (Photo submitted)

An underwater remotely operated vehicle built in Nanaimo was used to help RCMP divers recover the body of a bulldozer operator in the Arctic.

The recovery operation happened in February after a bulldozer broke through ice in January while widening a 170-kilometre ice road that runs between the port of Bathurst Inlet in western Nunavut and a gold-mining site at Black River, according to a press release issued by Nanaimo’s Seamor Marine Ltd. The bulldozer operator died in the incident.

READ ALSO: Bulldozer operator goes through ice, dies on Sabina Gold and Silver’s property

Seamor Marines six-thruster Chinook ROV was ued by the RCMP national underwater recovery training centre after a failed attempt was made with another ROV.

Conditions at the remote location during the two-day recovery were extreme with five- to six-foot thick ice, air temperatures of -41 C, a windchill of -53 C and a 160-metre submerged depth.

“The recovery and investigation was done at significant depths and latitude, both of which was one of the most, if not the most complex recovery to date for the RCMP,” said B.C. RCMP superintendent Jim Elliott in the press release.

On the first day of the operation, the Chinook ROV navigated to the bulldozer door using a GPS system and onboard multi-beam sonar, live-high definition video cameras and specialized lighting. Then, with the help of an attached Blueprint Labs five-function Alpha Arm and a rope cutter jaw, the ROV cut through a poly steel line and cleared away the other entangled ROV.

The second day of the operation involved opening the bulldozer door, the point where the previous ROV had failed. Using a second arm to manipulate the door handle, the Chinook ROV opened the door and retrieved the bulldozer operator’s body.

The RCMP team named the Chinook ROV ‘Fab’ after Fabrice Gevaudan, an RCMP diving colleague and friend who lost his life in the line of duty.

“Our ‘Fab’ accomplished all tasks required and worked like a champ above the Arctic Circle,” said Jay White, NURTC coordinator and leader of RCMP national diver training program.

The release added that the Nunavut operation represented the deepest recovery op in RCMP history.

“My heart goes out to the family, friends and co-workers of the operator,” said Robin Li, president of Seamor Marine, in the release. “It’s a devastating tragedy. We commend the efforts and technical skill of the police team on this difficult recovery mission, and we’re grateful that our ROV could make it possible for the victim to be returned to his family.”

Seamor Marine Ltd. designs and manufactures underwater observation and inspection-class remotely operated vehicles and modular accessories.

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