coming back alive
Tour Boat Sinks, Killing Four

Poor communication and co-ordination led to the death of four people in 2002, after the Lady Duck Tour Boat sank due to poor condition.

Coroner Catherine Rudel-Tessier heard testimony suggesting that while the condition of the vessel led to its sinking in minutes, there was confusion among police, fire and ambulance services on both sides of the river about who was in command. Furthermore, lack of a joint radio frequency made it difficult for the various services to talk to one another.

The Lady Duck -- a converted Ford pickup truck -- was carrying 10 passengers and two crew members when it sank near the Hull Marina on the Ottawa River on June 23, 2002. Eight people managed to escape but Doris Wong, 45, and her two children, Stephanie and Tiffany Yu, 13 and 5, of Montreal died trapped inside the boat. Also killed was Sister Marielle Fullum of St-Hyacinthe, Que.

Hull Marina on the Ottawa River

The amphibious vehicle was not water-tight and only two of its six electric pumps worked that day, according to a later report by the Transportation Safety Board of Canada. Safety measures were inadequate and the crew lacked proper training.

Witnesses described a "general panic" at the scene, with bystanders jumping into the water to try to rescue passengers.

One witness, Sgt. Pierre Parent of the Gatineau police, recalled how in the midst of the confusion he was scrambling to find out who survived and how many passengers were missing.

"I had to run around to get it," he said. There was no central command, and no one person in charge. Everyone had their own command."

Daniel St-Jacques, district chief for the Hull and Aylmer sectors of the Gatineau fire department, testified that "everybody did the best they could with what they had." But Gatineau fire, police and ambulance each had their own radio frequencies and could not easily talk to one another, a situation which he said is being rectified with the police and fire departments working to set up a joint system. Communications with their Ottawa counterparts faced the same barrier, he said

A committee on marine safety met to discuss how communication and co-ordination can be improved in dealing with boating accidents in the Ottawa-Gatineau area, with representatives from the police and fire departments, ambulance services, marinas and other interested parties from both sides of the Ottawa River.

Among the issues to be discussed are who should be in charge in the event of an incident on the river, and whether the Gatineau and Ottawa police, fire and ambulance services can establish joint radio communication.

Meanwhile, the Coast Guard will continue to help in search-and-rescue efforts if asked to do so, but is no longer a first responder to distress calls on the river, he said.

Canadian Coast Guard
Kids Survive, Parents Drown

A young husband and wife from the Mosquito Lake First Nation died July 6, 2004 in a boating accident as their two young children and another boy looked on.

The Saskatchewan couple's five-year-old son and four-year-old daughter, as well as an 11-year-old boy who was related to them, were wearing life-jackets at the time of the accident and survived.

RCMP say a rented paddleboat tipped over about 500 metres from the shore of Turtle Lake.

Witnesses who saw the boat capsize rescued the three children, but it is believed that the overturning boat hit the adults on the head.

The bodies of 28-year-old Perry Bruno and 23-year-old Tanya Starchief were later pulled from the lake.

"Initial investigation indicates that the paddleboat was equipped with lifejackets for all the occupants, and that the children were wearing theirs at the time the boat overturned," said RCMP Cpl. Brian Jones.

"The adults were not wearing lifejackets when they were removed from the water," he added.

A search crew scans the water, looking for signs of life.


Hero Dies in Canoe Accident

Being a hero means risking your life, and sometimes that can lead to death.

A Dundas man died April 29, 2006, after going back to try and rescue two canoeists who capsized over a dam.

Rob Dixon, 41, was one of nine friends partaking in an annual canoe trip along the Grand River. Dixon had been portaging and canoeing the river for years, but some of the trip members were less experienced.

Jason Enair, 25 and Ken Jamieson, 41, both from Milton, were new to the Grand River and novice canoers, but though a trip from Cambridge to the Brant Conservation Area would be fun.

The Nine local and area men were halfway through their annual canoe trip when Enair and Jamieson’s canoe passed a portage at Penman's Dam in Paris, went over the dam and capsized.

Carmen Tullo, 41, of Hamilton was with the six other men who had pulled their canoes into the portage and called 911 when he realized what had happened. Tullo said he believes the two had missed the large sign before the portage that reads "Danger Dam Ahead."

"If it's your first time in the river, you can miss it and they did," Tullo said.

By the time Tullo managed to call 911, he said that the four other canoes were back in the water preparing to attempt a rescue. Dixon, of Dundas, and Lloyd Taylor, 41, of Grimsby, the most experienced canoeists, made it to the dam first.

But when they turned their canoe so it was parallel with the dam it flipped over and tossed the two men into the river.

Ian Marshall, caught a glimpse of the canoe going over.

“I could hear yelling for help. And somebody else yelling ‘Hang on. Hang on.?

He said that when he heard the calls for help he looked down the bank into the river to see a canoe parallel with the dam and its occupant reaching over the side toward what Marshall thought was a shirt in the water at the bottom of the waterfall.

Penman's Dam in Paris, Ontario

That canoe began taking on water and it soon capsized. Marshall then saw people trying to pull men out the water from the shore.

“They got one out and they were trying to resuscitate him. The other guy was face down and naked from the waist down. He got up a few times and then laid back down again. When ambulance crew arrived they wrapped him in a blanket and led him away,? Marshall said.

While three of the men were recovered, there was no sign of Jamieson.

OPP rescue divers and firefighters continued their search for the man until late the next day, but had to call off the search because of strong currents beneath the dam and elevated water levels. His body was recovered a week after the tragic event.

Lloyd Taylor's cousin, Mike Taylor, 35, of Brantford, along with a local fisherman, performed CPR on the three rescued men until paramedics arrived.

Tullo said Dixon was without vital signs at the scene, but paramedics managed to revive him in the ambulance. Aside from the lack of oxygen, Tullo said Dixon suffered hypothermia and a core body temperature of 31 C.

"He hung on until 8:30 (that night) and then he passed on," he said. "We were all in the room when he passed on."

Tullo said Lloyd and Mike Taylor knew Dixon better than anyone in the group and were distraught.

"He was a great friend and it will be a huge loss for his good friends," he said.

Tullo said Dixon was one of six children and was a single guy who would do anything for his friends. He had a carefree attitude and had just purchased a new motorcycle that was "his baby."

"He's just a great guy, a fun guy," Tullo said. "He would give you the shirt off his back."

Lloyd Taylor and Enair were both admitted to hospital but have since been released. The other canoeists, Craig Lindley, 32, of St. Catharines, Tim Tapp, 33, of Hamilton and Paul Taylor, 41, of Hamilton were uninjured.

Tullo said the group has held its annual canoe trip for seven years without incident and the group is left wondering if there was anything they could have done differently.

In hindsight, he said, they could have put the two beginners in separate canoes, but everyone had buddied up with people they knew. He said the other canoeists had missed Enair and Jamieson by just moments after they pulled into the portage and began to walk their canoes down past the dam.

"You try to justify it but you can't," said Tullo, who is still coming to terms with the loss. "I came home and had an armload of therapy from my three-year-old and one-year-old."

Paris residents are trying to understand how the tragedy occurred as well. Jamie Kent owns Grand Experiences, a canoe rental and sale shop, that backs onto the river and said he realized something was wrong when he saw a stray paddle float by.

He looked up the river and saw canoes circling above the dam. He raced up to the dam and arrived just in time to guide rescue the site.

Kent said the current was so strong that nearby fishermen who tried to reach the men couldn't get out far enough.

He noted that with the signage and the weak current above the dam, the men should have reached the portage. They just made a really bad judgment call, he said.

"You'd have to get really close before you'd go over," he said. "Thousands of people land here every year and there's never a problem. Someone just didn't take it seriously."