On November 12, 1996, Keith Mitchell jumped out of the relative safety of his Hercules aircraft into the freezing waters of the Arctic Ocean.
The citation for Keith Paul Mitchell “Cross of Valour” reads: On November 12, 1996, Search and Rescue Technicians Mitchell and Pierce carried out an unprecedented night parachute jump into freezing Arctic waters to provide medical aid to a critically ill fisherman onboard a Danish trawler near Resolution Island, Northwest Territories.
Tasked initially as back-up to another air rescue team, the Hercules aircraft with MCpls. Mitchell and Pierce on board arrived first on the scene only to learn that the stricken seaman had taken a turn for the worse. There was no time to waste so they elected to attempt a risky parachute descent. With inadequate flare illumination and the promised Zodiac boat not yet launched from the Danish trawler, they jumped in extremely strong winds that carried them away from the vessel.
As they entered the three-metre waves, MCpl. Mitchell became entangled in the shroud lines under his partially collapsed chute canopy, while MCpl. Pierce's chute remained inflated and dragged him face down through the water farther away from the ship. Although equipped with dinghies, they could not paddle nor swim to the trawler because of heavy seas and severe icing.
Struggling to stay afloat, they battled the onset of hypothermia for 15 minutes before the crew of an ice-encrusted Zodiac picked them up and delivered them to the ship where they carried out medical procedures that saved the patient's life.
Awards: CV, CD