Ontario hikers stranded on ice floe rescued by OPP after drifting 3 km off shore

Ontario Provincial Police are celebrating after they were able to safely rescue a pair of hikers who were stranded on a piece of ice drifting on Georgian Bay Sunday afternoon.

Emergency crews were called to Cyprus Lake Road at Bruce Peninsula National Park near Tobermory, Ont., at around 2:30 p.m. after hearing from a pair of hikers who got lost, walked off the trail and ended up on a piece of ice that broke off from the shore.

“We were kind of panicking because the water came in so fast,” one of the hikers told a 911 operator in a video of the rescue released by OPP.  “We didn’t know what to do and so we kind of looked around us and realized how fast it was going in between the shore and us and then we knew we needed help,” the hiker added. 

In addition to the call from the hikers, multiple eyewitnesses at the park also called police to notify them of the drifting pair.

The Joint Rescue Coordination Centre (JRCC) from Trenton sent in a Hercules aircraft to keep tabs on the hikers in order for an OPP aircraft to pick them up. 

“[The rescue] really went off without a hitch,” said Grey Bruce OPP Const. Rick Sadler. “All the emergency personnel were able to make shoreline, they were able to have a visual contact with the parties, the hikers were able to communicate through our dispatcher 911 and the JRCC aircraft was able to circle the area, provide visuals and the exact locations to the helicopter.” 

Sadler said that by the time of the rescue, the ice floe had drifted roughly three kilometres from shore.

“The helicopter was able to hover just a couple of feet off the ground. The pilot on board was able to hold the aircraft steady while the other pilot was able to assist the hikers into the aircraft itself,” Sadler said.

“It’s absolutely incredible to think of the personal danger that the helicopter and the crew put themselves in, as well as the imminent danger for these these hikers. It must have been very harrowing to be on board on either side of that scenario.” 

The Joint Rescue Coordination Centre (JRCC) from Trenton sent in a Hercules aircraft to keep tabs on the hikers and give exact locations in order for an OPP aircraft to pick them up.  (Submitted by Grey Bruce OPP)

Sadler said that while this story had a happy ending with no injuries to any of the parties involved, that’s not always the case. 

With temperatures fluctuating this time of year, Sadler said shorelines are extremely unstable and should be avoided.

“Just be mindful of your personal safety and do not head out into the ice under any circumstance if you can avoid it,” he said, adding that those who have to go near the shoreline should never go alone and always have a cellphone and a stick or a rope they can throw for help. 

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