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HomeNewsOPP honours Muskoka heroes at annual awards ceremony

OPP honours Muskoka heroes at annual awards ceremony

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The four people who rescued a distressed swimmer at the Bracebridge’s Kelvin Grove Park have been honoured with the OPP Commissioner’s Citation for Bravery. 

The award is given to people who have “exhibited extraordinary acts of courage in a situation of extreme or potential personal hazard.”

Jessica Pletch, Darlene Sawyer, Julia McLaughlin and Savine Schell, who was there representing her father Kevin, were the ones honoured. Kevin Schell died while attempting to save a 24-year-old Toronto man during the rescue effort in August 2020.

During the Central Region OPP’s award ceremony Thursday (May 28), it was explained the man, who was eventually brought to shore safely, was swimming in the Muskoka River. “He was not a stronger swimmer and after jumping into the water, he began to struggle,” the presenter explained. 

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Sawyer was one of the first to notice the man was struggling, however, as the man was panicking, he started to drag her underwater, so she swam away to get help. Schell, McLaughlin and Pletch jumped in to help and were able to bring the man a flotation buoy and lifejacket. They managed to get him back to the dock safely.

“During the commotion, Mr. Schell, had been swept by the strong current and was carried nine metres away,” the presenter went on to explain. “He began to struggle and was no longer able to tread the water.”

It wasn’t until the next day that the 51-year-old’s body was recovered. 

“He will always be remembered for his sense of humour, his kindness, and his compassion for others,” the presenter finished. “He was a gentle soul and his absence continues to be felt by all those who knew him.”

Michael Gilligan (left) and Jon Duff (right) (Photo credit: Ryan Murrell)

Also honoured were Enid Wray, Ryan Thomas, and John Thomson who saved two canoers in April 2021. 

Wray noticed the two capsized canoes on Bass Lake in Muskoka Lakes. The two canoeists were calling for help. It was noted by the presenter that the water was cold so they were at risk of hypothermia. 

Wray rowed to them and was able to get them both in her small motorboat. Thomas and Thompson later transferred the two into their larger pontoon boat and got them safely to shore. 

John Brackett, Michael Gilligan, Elle Hawtin, Katherine Norris, Geordie Newlands, Matthew Le Normand, Jon Duff, Lindy Gale, and Justin Bifolchi were involved in the rescue on Lake Rosseau, also in Muskoka Lakes, in July 2021.

Mira Seagram was honoured earlier this year for her efforts in, along with first responders, rescuing people.

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