A Day of Fishing Becomes the Rescue of the Year
October 2, 2012 will not be soon forgotten by either Yvon Bedard or Stefan McClelland. Stefan put his life on the line that day, to take Yvon’s out of danger. The tale is a dramatic one, and the Canadian Safe Boating Council is pleased to recognize Stefan’s heroism for saving the life of a stranger on the water with its 2012 Rescue of the Year award.
Fishing alone on the Ottawa River, Stefan observed an airplane in the near distance take a sudden sharp turn and splash in the water. Although he was not sure whether the plane had crashed or simply made a hard landing, Stefan had a feeling that something had in fact gone wrong. Worrying that the pilot could be in distress, he decided to race towards the plane.
As he approached, he saw that the plane was leaning and circling in the water, and that its windshield was shattered. Stefan knew he had to get to the pilot, but also that it was a dangerous proposition: the plane was now moving unpredictably, and the propellers were still turning. As Stefan navigated cautiously forward, the pilot stopped the engine. His hatch would not open, so Stefan moved to the opposite side of the plane, working quickly because the windshield was almost under water. Managing together to open the hatch on that side, Stefan instructed the pilot, Yvon, to grab hold of his arms. As Yvon did this, the water was filling the cockpit and the plane began to sink rapidly; indeed, it did so in a matter of seconds, leaving Yvon’s body still submerged in the cold Ottawa River. They struggled together, and Yvon was finally pulled safely into the boat, where he collapsed from exhaustion.
After marking the location of the plane for future recovery and salvaging some of Yvon’s belongings that were floating nearby, Stefan made his way towards the Cumberland Ferry to get to shore and contact 911. Stefan noted gratefully that Yvon had no noticeable injuries but was concerned about hypothermia and so he instructed Yvon to remove his wet clothes and gave him his own dry jacket and some hot coffee while they waited for help to arrive. Yvon was taken to hospital and Stefan returned to the crash scene with a member of the Ottawa Police, where he helped the Marine and Dive Unit to locate the sunken plane.
Stefan clearly recalls Yvon saying that his flying days were over. His reply? “Well, at least your living days aren’t.”