Ottawa teen raced in socks to get help for friends who fell through ice: 911 caller

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OTTAWA — It was about 9:30 p.m. when a young man came racing to her yard in his socks, a T-shirt and shorts. No coat. No phone. Dripping wet.

“He was yelling he needed help because his friend had fallen through the ice,” says Carly Roome.

She called the police right away, and she and her parents spoke with the boy, who was “really shaken up,” to get more details as she spoke to the 911 operator.

The boy had pulled his sister out of the Rideau River, about 400 metres away from where Roome lives. But he was worried about those he was unable to save.

The family drove the teenager back to the site, where his sister was waiting, and Roome passed her phone over to the teenager so he could provide more details about what happened.

“The sister was just, like, yelling, and just, like, really freaked out,” Roome said.

“So I just held her while he was on the phone.”

Police confirmed Thursday morning that one teenager was dead. Another was still missing.

Police said Thursday that emergency crews responded to a call about four teens falling into the river from Nicolls Island Road at 9:45 p.m. Police reported earlier that the first call came in at roughly 11:45 p.m., but later clarified that was a mistake.

They said two of the teenagers were immediately rescued from the water and were taken to hospital by paramedics, while a 16-year-old and a 17-year-old boy were still missing and believed to be in the water.

Police said a rescue operation took place in “very difficult conditions,” and included a surface and water search. Divers recovered the body of one of the missing teenagers.

The search for the second missing teen was paused overnight and did not resume in the morning. Just before 3 p.m. on Thursday, an underwater search and recovery unit arrived on the scene and set up a tent near the edge of the river.

Asked why the police press release implied that two teens were rescued when Roome’s account suggests that one rescued himself and his sister, a police spokesperson noted that the release did not specify how the youths were rescued.

“I really feel for the boy that came to our house. He saved his sister and tried to save his friend,” said Roome.

“And then in like no clothes ran to our house to get more help for his friend. I just really think he did everything that he could.”

Three marked police vehicles had been parked near the Long Island Locks of the Rideau Canal on a rainy Thursday morning, as milder-than-average temperatures persisted in Ottawa.

Yellow police tape was wrapped around the locks near the river, where a thin layer of ice appeared to extend outward from the shore, met by open water.

Police also taped off an area near the shoreline.

Nearby, a black SUV was parked and blocked off with tape. The licence plates on the front and back of the vehicle were covered.

Asked for more details, the police spokesperson said more information was not being shared because it remains an ongoing police operation.

“We have offered supports to the loved ones of the youths,” an earlier police statement read. “This tragedy affects us all.”

The search for the missing teen comes amid a spate of similar incidents across the country.

RCMP in Alberta confirmed this week that a family of three died after falling through thin ice while riding their UTV in the lead-up to Christmas.

The Mounties also said a man died after falling through ice near Calgary on Christmas Day.

Last month, the RCMP in Saskatchewan reported that two girls fell through ice on a lake. One of them died, along with two men who were attempting a rescue.

And in Quebec this week, provincial police said the search for a four-year-old girl who fell into a river last week is now being considered a recovery operation rather than a rescue mission.

After the Prairies deaths, Mounties were reminding outdoor enthusiasts that ice should be at least 15 centimetres thick for a person to walk or skate on it.

The thickness should be at least 20 centimetres for a group of people and 25 centimetres for the use of a snowmobile or off-road vehicle.

Asked on Thursday whether Ottawa police had any message to the public about safety around ice, the spokesperson said the service’s website points to advice from the Canadian Red Cross.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 28, 2023.

— With files from Maan Alhmidi in Toronto.

Stephanie Taylor, The Canadian Press

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Ottawa teen raced in socks to get help for friends who fell through ice: 911 caller

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