Rondeau couple demands answers after repeated pleas to 911 go unanswered
LONDON, ONT. -- Within an hour of each other on September 17th, two boat in distress events occurred on Lake Erie.
The first, a pair of kayakers in Port Bruce were rescued by the OPP and the Joint Rescue Task Force. The second event was Reginald Fisher, whose body washed up on shore 2 weeks later.
But, a couple who live on the Lake Erie shore near Rondeau Provincial Park say, he could have, and should have been saved.
“We need help, we have a boat in distress” Jackie Fordham told the OPP operator on the night on September 17th. Her husband Ron was alerted to the boat in distress after walking out onto their patio which comes right up to the waters edge on the north shore of Lake Erie
“I looked across the lake to the east, and saw what appeared to be a boat on fire, I immediately got my wife and she verified there was a boat in peril”
The couple immediately called 911,
"We explained what we were seeing, they at that point in time said that they believed what we were seeing was a boat in distress in Port Bruce” Jackie recalled from 1 of their 4 conversations with a 911 dispatcher. The problem was, Port Bruce is 76 kilometres from the Fordham home across the water.
“Which is mathematically impossible to see with the naked eye” Ron added, The Fordham’s knew exactly where Reginald Fisher was in distress, using the windmills on the Elgin/Kent County border which light up at night as marker points. They knew the boat wasn’t near Port Bruce and they continued to press the OPP operator to take them seriously over 4 phone calls over a 90 minute span. Counting the distress flares that came from the boat until midnight
“And that was the last flare we saw on the lake that night” Jackie says, it was the last of 6 flares ignited by 77-year-old Fisher, from his 14-foot sailboat."
At one point Ron offered to launch his own vessel, a 29 foot boat. But it isn’t equipped with lighting which would have made it impossible to locate the vessel in the dark on his own
“The Hercules, would have come down from Port Bruce, it would have taken them five minutes, set some flares off, I could have been out there in 20 minutes. I believe that we definitely could have saved this mans life” says Fordham, OPP Acting Staff Sergeant Kerry Schmidt says the incident is under review.
“There were events in general locations that appeared to be one in the same, and again, that is what our review trying to understand to prevent confusion from happening in the future”
The Fordhams say, it shouldn’t have happened in the first place.
“As I play it over in my head, that if it would have been my husband out on the water that night, and I made four calls to 911, and they never responded” says Jackie
“I think it was negligence on 911, OPP, and Coast Guard. I believe the man could have been saved” added Ron
Schmidt says more information will be shared with the public following the completion of the OPP review.