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Family rescues man in frozen wilderness north of the Sault (4 photos)

"I'm just thankful we got there when we did," Sault woman says

Sault resident Tanya Martin says she doesn’t consider herself a hero, but she, along with family members and friends, saved a man from perishing outdoors north of the Sault over the weekend.

Martin, along with her two children and husband James Clark, travelled north on Highway 17 to visit their camp Friday, Dec. 16.

The severe winter weather conditions forced OPP to close Highway 17 between Heyden and Wawa that day, with both lanes reopened to traffic by 10 p.m.

“We almost didn’t go to camp because of the highway closure, but something just made us stay in line on the highway, to stick it out,” Martin told SooToday.

The highway was reopened and the group arrived at the camp late Friday.

The family, along with friends Andy Lebel and James Slyzys (“we call him ’Sly,’” Martin said), decided to travel by snowmobile the following morning (Saturday, Dec. 17) to Halfway Haven Lodge.

The lodge is situated 140 kilometres northeast of Searchmont, 105 kilometres southeast of Wawa, and 90 kilometres west of Chapleau, accessible only by a road off Highway 101.

The lodge offers family style dinners, accommodation for visitors in single and double bed rooms, shower and laundry facilities and a sitting area with fireplaces.

“The trail got really bad and we almost turned around to go back to camp, but again, something made us keep going that little bit further, maybe it was the thought of lunch and Wi-Fi for the kids at Halfway Haven,” Martin chuckled.

“We kept going and we ended up finding this man and his machine.”

The man, which Martin remembers only as “Andy,” was a logging company worker, stranded in the freezing wilderness.

Out of cell phone range, he was tired, cold and hungry after his buncher (a motorized logging vehicle) had broken down.

“He popped out of his machine and he was so excited and happy to see us, all I saw was this man hugging our friend Andy (Lebel), who was first in line,” Martin said.

“I thought ‘why is this man hugging Andy?’ and so when we got up closer, he was explaining he had been in the bush since Thursday night.”

The group located the man at approximately 1 p.m. Saturday.

“He hadn’t eaten since Thursday, except for a Granola bar,” Martin said.

The stranded logger was fortunate in that he had a chainsaw, had cut down a pine tree and surrounded his buncher with boughs, dug down into the ground and had built a fire to keep warm.

“We said we’ve got to bring this guy back to camp, so I piped up and said ‘how would you like to come back to camp with us for food and get warmed up?’ and he said ‘I’d really love that!’”

The logger known as Andy stayed with the group until that evening, when they returned him by snowmobile to where his fellow loggers were located.

“He was very relieved and he kept saying ‘thank you, I can’t thank you enough,’” Martin said.

So does Martin consider herself a hero?

“At that moment, I just felt like I was doing something right, like any person would do, but as I tell the story people keep saying ‘you’re such a hero,’ but I was just doing something any normal human being should do.”

Nevertheless, Martin said she feels “awesome” for helping.

“It is really amazing , I’m just thankful we got there when we did.”

“The logger was from southern Ontario…this was his first winter up here, he had never experienced our winters,” Martin said.

Without doubt, the man’s first northern winter is an experience he’ll never forget, and one he has lived to tell about.