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Grandparents survive terrifying plunge into icy waters near Cambridge Bay

A grandmother and grandfather are recovering after falling through the ice when their snowmobile and qamutiq hurtled into a river near Cambridge Bay on Saturday.

Annie Egotik is being flown to Edmonton for health tests, her husband Adam tells Nunavut News.

She was initially medevaced to Yellowknife for treatment.

Annie and Adam Egotik, seen here during their 48th wedding anniversary, endured more than an hour in icy waters near Cambridge Bay on Oct. 26. photo courtesy of Adam Egotik

The Egotiks were near the rear of a family convoy of snowmobiles and qamutiqs heading back to Cambridge Bay on Saturday. It was evening and dark. The temperature was around -14 C.

Adam and Annie veered slightly off the trail of the snowmobiles ahead of them and their machine broke through the ice.

"The grandmother was in the qamutiq and trying to stay out of the water," said Cambridge Bay fire chief Keith Morrison, who was among the responders to the subsequent call for help. “The grandfather was standing on the snowmobile. The water wasn't that deep but because of the ice, you couldn't walk through the water... it wasn't thick enough (ice) to really support weight.”

Annie Egotik compared the ordeal to a “bad dream” in a Facebook post. She said she and Adam tried not to panic.

“I went under water a few times...we kept talking to each other but slowly started to get stiff,” she wrote, noting that it was emotionally wrenching to hear worried family members shouting and crying nearby.

A couple of family members attempted to rescue them while others raced off to summon help.

“We didn’t know how long (we were) waiting. The water seems to be getting hot. My husband said he took his mitts off and wanted to take his parka off. I told him don't take it off,” Annie wrote. “Our family shouting at us, 'Help is coming soon.' So happy heart when you hear people are coming. They wanted us to catch the rope. I guess we couldn't make it ourselves. Our son Adam Jr. jumped in, pulling me out. After that I was in shock. My husband said our grandson helped pulled him out of water."

Annie was still shaken up days later.

“I crying thinking about it like a dream, but it's real. I just want it to go away. I know it will take time to heal – just thankful we still have each other with our family,” she wrote.

Adam remains grateful to everyone involved in the rescue.

“We thank all people that helped us out – a special thank you to our son Adam Jr. He went in cold icy water to help his mom, and to our grandson Anthony to help me out,” Adam wrote. “To our community that pulled together and all the people that are praying for us, thank you everyone.”

Morrison said about a dozen people – including members of the local search and rescue team, hamlet staff and firefighters – rushed to the scene. Rescuers used ropes and a boat to help bring the Egotiks to shore safely, according to the fire chief.

The time from the rescue call – around 7 p.m. – until the grandparents were brought into the Cambridge Bay health centre was around an hour and twenty minutes, Morrison said.

Thin ice remains a concern in the Kitikmeot.

“This year actually it's been warmer than usual so the ice is a bit thinner,” said Morrison. “There's still open water in the strait... at the mouth of the bay.”