airboat rescue after dramatic 911 call

 
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published: 17 January 2014
by: Ian McInroy

INNISFIL — Fire and police departments from two jurisdictions were called into action early Thursday evening after an Innisfil teenager became disoriented on the ice of Lake Simcoe and Cook’s Bay (Ontario, Canada).

Georgina Marine Rescue airboat

Georgina Marine Rescue airboat

After being out on the ice for hours, Justin Carriere Copan, 14, was eventually rescued just before 8 p.m. suffering from mild hypothermia and returned to Innisfil Beach Park and his parents.

The teen was discovered relatively unharmed but not before a search that lasted for four hours was conducted. Search efforts were confounded by heavy snow fall.

“We have 14-year-old on a cellphone out on the ice. He is awaiting rescue because he heard cracking and is afraid to move,” South Simcoe police Const. Richard Williamson stated in an e-mail to the Examiner around the supper hour.

That cellphone may have saved the youth’s life.

He told QMI Agency he had decided to go “on an adventure” onto the ice and walk to Fox Island, but neglected to tell anyone and then became disoriented on his way back. He was not bundled up for an extended walk on the ice and had only a light jacket and no mitts or gloves.

After realizing he was lost, he called 911 on the cellphone he’d just got on Wednesday.

South Simcoe police, York Regional Police, Innisfil Fire and Rescue and the Georgina Fire Department were alerted around 5:40 p.m. The fire departments’ ice rescue boats were dispatched as were York Regional Police snowmobiles. At one point, CFB Trenton was contacted and a Hercules search and rescue aircraft with infra-red search capabilities was dispatched but it was cancelled.

“If he hadn’t had a cellphone, which was given to him yesterday, (it wouldn’t have come) together,” said his father, Gerald Copan. “We didn’t know he had a cell phone,” he said, adding it may have been given to the youth by a friend.

“I’m extremely relieved: very, very relieved,” he said, adding he appreciated the efforts of firefighters and police who joined the search for his son and brought him back safe and sound. “My thanks and my gratitude to all.”

The teen was checked out by paramedics at Innisfil Beach Park, where he was brought back to shore. They determined he was suffering from “mild hypothermia” despite his ordeal and gave his parents some advice:

“Take him home and give him hot chocolate,” said Gerald.

Asked if he would ever go out on the ice like that again, Justin said “No”, adding that if he did decide to head out, he would be prepared. “I’d take a compass (and) my parents.”

York Regional Police Insp. Lou Malbeuf said the youth had been on the ice for quite awhile, and told police he could see their flares.

Williamson said the teen told rescuers he wasn’t moving.

“He called in to 911 when he heard cracking. He is on 12 inches of ice and staying put,” he said. “He is not in danger. The fire department airboat is heading out to find him. He is trying to direct the boats to him but heavy snow is hampering visibility.”

At 7:50 p.m., Williamson e-mailed the Examiner with the good news.

“Located by Georgina Fire Department. He will be fine.”

Malbeuf said the teen was found somewhere between Fox and Snake islands and the mainland.