Bracebridge resident Amanda Hookings lost her husband Griff suddenly when their daughter Sutton was only eight months old. Now, as Sutton turns one, Amanda is fundraising for the search and rescue team that helped bring her husband home.
Griff Hookings, who was born and raised in Bracebridge, died at 37 in a helicopter crash while doing mine exploration work in a remote area of British Columbia on Aug. 17. The cause of the accident is still under investigation, and due to the location and other circumstances surrounding the crash, the recovery presented a number of challenges. Some people involved in the recovery efforts were concerned about sending volunteers to perform such an intense recovery mission, but the volunteer-run non-profit Terrace Search and Rescue (SAR) pushed back and secured approval to do the recovery.
“They fought hard,” Amanda said. “They risked their lives to bring him back to Terrace and then eventually, we were able to bring him home.”
Dave Jephson, the SAR manager for the recovery mission, said it was important for them to get approval because they have the requisite training and they believe strongly in trying to give families closure.
“We want to help solve families’ grief, and this was a stressful situation for the family,” Jephson said. “It was horrendous being so far away and not knowing.”
Once the fight for approval was over, the real task began. Terrace is hundreds of kilometres south of the crash site near Eskay Creek Mine, but despite the distance and poor weather conditions, the search and rescue team flew into the mountains and performed a successful recovery.
“We were able to provide closure for Griff’s family,” Jephson said. “That was the most important thing.”
The money raised by Amanda will go into Terrace SAR’s general fund, which covers expenses for training and gear while also contributing to the creation of their new headquarters. Though fundraising plays an important role in maintaining their operations, Jephson wants to make it clear that the money isn’t what’s important.
“I’ll go collect more bottles to get money,” he said. “This to me truly is more about Amanda and Sutton than us, so thank you to everybody [that decides] to support her wishes and to support her at this time with Sutton, helping show Sutton who her dad was.”
For Amanda, it’s an honour to be able to make a donation in honour of Griff as well as Sutton’s first birthday on Dec. 21. She hopes that locals will consider donating to the cause despite the geographic distance that separates Bracebridge and B.C.
“It just shows that no matter where you are potentially across the country or in the world, if you are ever in trouble and you’re not in your hometown, there are people out there that will still fight for you,” she said. “That could have been anyone from the local area who got hurt out west or got in an accident out west. It’s just nice to see that there are volunteer organizations like this one that will help, even if you’re thousands of kilometres away from home.”
Amanda originally set the goal for the fundraiser at $2,000, but due to an outpouring of support in the first few days, she has upped the target to $7,000. No matter how much they end up raising, it means a lot to Amanda to show the search and rescue team her support and gratitude.
“They are all volunteers, they have to buy their own equipment, they have to pay for their own training and these people all have jobs as well, so they’re doing this on the side to help families like ours,” Amanda said. “I want them to be able to continue to do that and to be able to have resources that they need so that no family is ever left without closure.”