'Great teamwork': First responders, citizens unite for successful Ottawa River rescue

It was an emergency call with a very happy ending.

On Monday, May 18 boaters Dustin Howard of Haley Station and Mike Gavin of Dacre were on the Ottawa River west of Acres Road boat launch when they observed a boat headed for the rapids; a short time later, they observed property floating down stream.

Emergency services were contacted and officers with the Renfrew Detachment of the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) responded, along with the assistance of OPP marine officers, Whitewater Fire Department, Renfrew County Paramedics and several local volunteers. The waterway was patrolled and the boat was located fully submerged in the rapids.

“The call came in just after 9 a.m.,” said Renfrew County Paramedic Steve Ospienko. And while first responders were on scene preparing for the search, a local angler, Chris Osborne, volunteered to head out and check on the situation, joined by first responders.

“I was really happy he jumped in to help. He has a nice boat and he knows how to drive. And he knows the river,” he said. “They went upriver until they found personal bags, gas tanks, oars and safety kits floating. Then they found the boat capsized and anchored still.”

The rescuers then spotted the local couple, who had been able to swim to the shoreline to start a fire to warm up and keep the flies away, Osipenko reported. They picked up the couple and brought them back to the launch.

The couple suffered no injuries and they were transported home.

“They were wet and a little disgruntled that they lost their boat but otherwise they were fine,” said Osipenko.

He credits the citizens, as well as all the emergency teams, for the co-ordinated effort.

“The communication between the three services – a unified command – was excellent,” said Osipenko. “It was great teamwork. Thank you to everybody who helped out.”

The incident also underscores the importance of safety, he said.

“Wearing PFDs (personal flotation devices) was a great saviour in this,” he said.

He reminded the public to be wary on the water.

“Yeah the water is low but it’s still fast moving,” he said. “The dams are open, the water is passing quickly. The current is still strong.”

Whitewater Region Fire Chief Guy Longtin echoed Osipenko’s sentiments.

“The water’s really cold out there,” he said. “The fact they were wearing PFDs probably saved their lives. It was a great team effort.”

<back to Headlines