SUDBURY––An ice fishing trip across the ice of Lake Panache could have led to a tragic end for 72-year-old Don Dowdall were it not for the quick thinking and actions of former Mindemoya resident Colin Jewell.
The treacherous nature of ice in the early winter was demonstrated as Mr. Dowdall headed across the lake. In a story that was first reported in the Sudbury Star, the avid fisherman with decades of experience on the lake noted that ice thickness on the lake averaged 10 inches, but in that one spot there might have been some current in play.
Even though Mr. Dowdall gunned his engine when he realized the back of his machine was going throught the ice, it proved to be not enough and he found himself floundering in the water.
Meanwhile, Colin Jewell was about 500 metres away when he heard Mr. Jewell’s screams for help.
Mr. Jewell’s father Keith, who operates Jewell’s Collision in Gore Bay, said he was very proud of his son. “I was very proud he was smart about it too,” said Mr. Jewell of his son’s efforts. “He didn’t just jump in where a lot of people might have panicked, he used his head and approached it safely.”
Although Mr. Dowdall said that Mr. Jewell arrived within four or five minutes of Mr. Dowdall going into the water, it was apparently difficult to reach the ice fisherman as the current kept pushing him away from the more secure ice. Things might still have ended badly but for the arrival of Andrew Lariviere on his four-wheeler.
Mr. Lariviere was towing a sled and had a good length of sturdy rope onboard that the pair were able to use to reach the man in the water. Still, it took three tries. Mr. Dowdall, who had been in the water for nearly 10 minutes at this point, reported being so weak from the cold and his struggles that he could barely wrap the rope around his arm.
Together the two rescuers pulled Mr. Dowdall from the water and putting him on the sled, transported him to a local marina. After a brief sojourn in the hospital, Mr. Dowdall reported not being too worse for wear, but that it took him a few days to recover from the weakness left by his ordeal.
The OPP cautions those heading out on the ice to be especially cautious at this time of year as the ice thickness can vary dramatically due to the vagaries of currents in the water.
Mr. Dowdall is reported to be seeking official recognition for his two young rescuers. As they were the only other two people on the lake at the time, their efforts undoubtedly stood between Mr. Dowdall and his untimely demise.
“He isn’t making a big thing about it,” said Mr. Jewell of his son’s reaction to the dramatic event. “He said he was only doing what anyone else would have done in his place.”
Mr. Jewell’s son, who now lives and works in Sudbury, is employed by Manitoulin Transport’s Sudbury operations where he is pursuing a career as a mechanic. The young rescuer was unavailable for comment before press time on Monday.