A frozen lake, an overturned snowmobile, an empty helmet, and STARS in the air… Look at Kyle Cooper’s tattooed arm and you just might get the chills.

It was a cold winter day on the prairies and Cooper was out for a ride.

A wide-open white playground lay before him, so he squeezed the throttle.

Then snow-blindness took over.

“I was going a fair good clip,” he said during a recent visit to our base, “and I ended up clipping off a snowdrift, which sent me tumbling over my handlebars. My helmet flew off, and I tumbled and tumbled.”

Fire chief David Sabirsh was one of the first emergency responders on scene, and he knew the injuries were bad.

“If we didn’t get him to a trauma centre within a short period of time, he probably wouldn’t have made it,” said Sabirsh.

Paramedic Mike Schiffer was in a ground ambulance when the call came in.

“Right away, based on the dispatch information, we knew that this was going to be really serious,” he said, recalling STARS was also heading to the scene.

Schiffer’s ambulance was in for a rough ride trying to reach Cooper in the middle of the frozen lake.

“We were going maybe five- or 10 kph, and everything in the back of the ambulance was falling out of the cupboards with these massive frozen drifts,” said Schiffer.

But he and his partner eventually reached Cooper and worked quickly to gain control of his airway and have him ready for STARS.

“Sure enough, they landed right beside the ambulance, right on the ice,” he said. “It was just amazing how they worked. The level of communication and the level of care they were able to provide to Kyle in a really short amount of time was absolutely phenomenal.

“Us being on that ice, and the state of his injuries— time was a major factor for us. We weren’t able to get off that ice in a smooth or quick fashion by any means, so for them to be able to land right at the crash site on the ice and be able to transport him right to the General (Hospital) was definitely life-saving.”

Cooper agreed, rolling up his sleeve to show off his tattoo, depicting his crash scene on one side and the STARS logo on the other.

“Honestly, without STARS I don’t know where I would be today,” he said.”I ask myself that question constantly… STARS means so much to me.”

Sabirsh said it’s become an essential service.

“It’s all part of a team concept with ground ambulance and now STARS in the air,” he said. “It’s a vital team.”