Two West End men presented with medals of bravery

Brian Dittmar of Gore Bay and Steve Prior of Barrie Island were both presented with medals of bravery from the Governor General of Canada, Julie Payette, for saving the life of an Evansville man in 2017. From left is Steve Prior, Governor General of Canada Julie Payette and Brian Dittmar. The awards ceremony was held at Rideau Hall in Ottawa last week.

Brian Dittmar and Steve Prior saved man’s life in 2017, acknowledged by Governor General Julie Payette

OTTAWA—While two Gore Bay area men were awarded medals of bravery from the Governor General of Canada Julie Payette last week, an Evansville man is just happy the two men, Brian Dittmar and Steve Prior, were on hand to save his life in 2017.

“I’m just grateful to be alive,” stated Kirk Longmuir this past Sunday. “I’m grateful there are a lot of good people on the Island who help each other out. I wouldn’t be around without them.”

Mr. Dittmar and Mr. Prior received the medals of bravery from the Governor General of Canada on Thursday, April 25 in ceremonies held at Rideau Hall in Ottawa. A total of 39 recipients were recognized for their excellence, courage or exceptional dedication to services with one of the following honours: a Meritorious Service Decoration (Civil Division), a Decoration for Bravery or the Sovereign’s Medal for Volunteers.

As has been reported previously, Mr. Dittmar and Mr. Prior rescued Mr. Longmuir, whose all-terrain vehicle had fallen through the ice in Julia Bay on April 1, 2017. Mr. Dittmar and Mr. Prior grabbed a rope and a roof rake and made their way to the scene of the accident. The men each tied an end of the rope around their waists before they started walking across the ice towards the victim, some 150 metres from shore. Mr. Dittmar tried to lift Mr. Longmuir out of the water with the rake, but fell through the ice himself. He grabbed Mr. Longmuir by the hood and, with the help of Mr. Prior, was able to get himself and Mr. Longmuir back onto the ice. They then dragged the victim towards the shore, where a bystander helped them load the man onto another ATV. Mr. Longmuir was then driven to an awaiting ambulance.

Mr. Longmuir recalled, “it was a beautiful sunshiny day, so we decided to take a ride and fish. We drilled over 12 holes and measured the ice to be over a foot. The fish weren’t biting so we decided to pack everything up and go to another route on Julia Bay to the causeway.” 

However, “we didn’t know the currents would be so rough and the ice was non-existent in some places,” said Mr. Longmuir. “Unfortunately, I unintentionally ended up going in for a swim. Chris (Steele, who was with him) had got out of the water on her own steam and to the best of my ability I tried to get out as well. If not for Crystal Lane and Lisa Addison fishing on the other side of the lake who could hear screaming and calling 911 and then Brian and Steve, the whole process (of saving him) wouldn’t have started.”
Ms. Addison had got in contact with Mr. Dittmar and Ms. Lane got in touch with Mr. Prior and both they and Cathy Haskett and Wendell Clarke got to the scene. “Steve and Cathy Haskett came onto the lake to try and get me out of there. Steve told me afterward that he thought he was going to be there to retrieve a body,” said Mr. Longmuir.

“Brian had a roof rake that he pushed out to me, and when my head turned, he (Mr. Dittmar) whispered to Steve, ‘he’s alive’,” recalled Mr. Longmuir. “The next thing I heard was a splash in the water and Brian was pulling me up out of the water.”

“The next thing I know I was sitting up on the ice,” said Mr. Longmuir. “I was looking at a farm, barn over the ATV and they were all talking about how they were going to get me off the ice.” When they transported him from the ice to the ambulance, Mr. Longmuir had one boot and one glove on.

“That is the extent of what I remember,” said Mr. Longmuir. “After that the next thing I remember is being in the hospital and seeing surgical lights. I thought, ‘I guess I’m not dead,’ and next I saw Chris and I thought, ‘holy crap, I made it’.”

Mr. Longmuir said he is in good shape physically and mentally after the ordeal. “I don’t have any valid complaints,” he told the Recorder. “I have a cardiologist that likes to give me trouble. There could have been a funeral if it wasn’t for all these good people that saved me,” noting his gratefulness to the paramedics and volunteer firefighters on hand as well, “and my doctor, Al Hady.” 

Mr. Longmuir said that curiously, “when I first remember being in the hospital I wasn’t cold. Hospital staff were putting warm saline into my body. This went on for a couple of hours, until I started to shiver and shake and I thought I was freezing again. Now they put an electric blanket over me, so now they were warming me up from the outside in.”

Mr. Dittmar noted his gratitude that then Gore Bay Mayor Ron Lane and council had nominated the two men for the award, and that town clerk Annette Clarke had done the paperwork for the nomination. “It was quite an experience being there for the ceremony with people from all over Canada who were receiving different medals for their efforts, including other bravery medals. I talked to several of the other people including two RCMP officers who pointed out that they were trained to do a rescue, but noted that Steve and I haven’t had training like this.”

However, he stressed that it took several people, not just he and Mr. Prior, to save Mr. Longmuir. “If there was anything I realized while I was there at the ceremony and after being interviewed (by CBC News) it is that for the whole picture is if it wasn’t for Lisa Addison and Crystal Lane who made the calls to 911 and to Steve and I, there we couldn’t have saved him. And I wouldn’t have been able to rescue Kirk without Steve being there; and vice versa. Neither of us could have done it ourselves.”

“And once we got Steve out of the water we were both exhausted,” said Mr. Dittmar. “And Cathy (Haskett) and Wendell Clarke were there and without them we wouldn’t have been able to get him on the snowmachine to get him to get help. It was truly a team effort; if any components were missing this would not have happened.”

“No, I haven’t been out on the ice since,” stated Mr. Longmuir. But I did go to a store to try out a floater suit one day and stood in front of a mirror. I had a picture in my mind of floating in a hole in the ice and that was enough for me, I took the suit off and hung it on a hanger and left the store.”

“It is great to see these two gentlemen get these awards, they are well deserved,” he added.

“I was humbled by the award,” Mr. Prior told the Recorder. “I’m glad I went with Cathy to Ottawa for the ceremony and I was able to talk to some of the other recipients of awards. It was incredible hearing some of their stories. I’m just glad we were able to save Kirk.”