'Water was washing over the helicopter': Officers open up about rescue on Lake Simcoe
Published Monday, May 7, 2018 6:56PM EDT Last Updated Monday, May 7, 2018 9:47PM EDT
Large waves crashed into an OPP helicopter, as officers grabbed people who were flung into Lake Simcoe during Friday’s wind storm.
"Whitecaps were visible and water was washing over the helicopter,” says Const. Tom Laing. “The people in the water were having a hard time staying above water even with life-jackets."
Laing and Sgt. Scott Ross found 11 people in the water on Friday afternoon after their canoes capsized. Knowing just how dangerous the frigid waters could be and how fast hypothermia could happen, the pair jumped into action.
"We're getting knocked around pretty good. With the flight helmet on, a couple of times my head hit the roof," says Ross.
They pulled three people into the chopper, while the OPP marine unit and paramedics helped eight others.
"I reached down and grabbed the victims one at a time."
All of the students and their teacher were from the Windsor area. They have since been released from hospital and will make a full recovery.
“It's not something we saw coming,” says Dave Penner, a Windsor teacher. “The first boat that capsized didn't experience a capsize because of waves. They experienced it because of the wind and it was actually our most experienced canoers.”
Police originally said 18 people were rescued from the lake on Friday.
First responders say the outcome likely would have been very different if the students were not wearing life-jackets.