Mother uses survival skills to help keep stranded family alive

By Thia James
October 29, 2014 - 11:28am Updated: October 29, 2014 - 4:05pm

Using the skills learned from hunting and trapping for 20 years, a Wollaston Lake woman kept her family going for three days while they were stranded on a small island.

Rose Tsannie, 43, went boating with her two daughters, Ronna, 25, and Sammy, 16, last Tuesday on Wollaston Lake. Joining them was Tsannie’s brother, Phillp Hansen, 44. The family had some groceries and an extra five gallons of fuel, but an uncle who had been in the craft with them took the gas when he went home, leaving them with one gallon.

Usually, 10 gallons of fuel is needed to go back and forth, but with the weather, Tsannie said you have to take extra.

“And my brother thought there was extra gas in the boat. And when we ran out of gas, and he said my uncle took it, his extra gas. So, that’s how we got stranded.”

After their boat ran out of gas, they found themselves stuck in the fog. Tsannie said the boat started going back and forth.

“So, the wind blew us to the shore, and we stayed on the island for three days stranded there,” she said.

The family had landed on a rocky island in the lake. They had called other family, but their cellphone died before they could state their location, according to the RCMP.

Tsannie said they didn’t have a tent, but used a tarp for shelter. She also found something to cook their food in and had to keep the fire going.

“Because it was raining, the wood got all wet, and my brother got sick on me, so I had to stay up all night chopping up wood, keep the fire going, keep my girls warm.”

“I didn’t care about me, I only cared about my girls, you know. I didn’t want them to get sick.”

Her brother had been sick for two out of the three days, but when he recovered, Tsannie told her brother to help her paddle. Now back in the boat, she said they paddled for six hours. They also made a sail using tarp and two big logs tied to the edge of the boat with a rope.

“Close to George Island, that’s when the Rangers met up with us,” she said.

On shore, family members reported Tsannie, her daughters and brother missing. The Wollaston Lake RCMP and the rangers from the Wollaston Lake Patrol Fourth Canadian Ranger Patrol Group searched for them with help from locals who know the area.

RCMP said the searchers kept looking despite thick fog, checking several islands, but couldn’t find the missing people.

By Friday, the searchers were out again and finally found the family that afternoon.

For Tsannie, the survival knowledge she learned from her father, who she trapped and fished with for decades, helped her through the ordeal.

“But my girls took it kind of hard because they’re not used to these kind[s] of things. And I [kept] telling them, ‘this is what you have to do … If you girls are sitting like that, you’re going to be cold or you’re going end up getting sick.’ So, they took my word. So, that’s how we survived.”

When the four returned home, Tsannie said she got a reaction from within the community that she hadn’t expected. She said some people were crying.

“It was touching.”

According to Tsannie, none of the family members stranded had to be taken to the hospital.

In a statement, the RCMP said the temperature fell to -7 C, with wind and heavy freezing rain last Wednesday.

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On Twitter: @thiajames

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