Exclusive – Two Durham Men Rescued from Lake Ontario After Boat Capsizes

In Editor Choice, Local

It wasn’t your typical day on the water for two Durham Region brothers on Friday, June 30, 2023.

Gary O’Brien from Oshawa and his brother Dale from Orono are lucky to be alive after their boat capsized on Lake Ontario.

Members of the Canadian Coast Guard Cape Rescue based in Cobourg rescued the two men who were wearing life jackets clinging to a cooler approximately five nautical miles off shore between Cobourg and Port Hope.

The brothers set off in their Star Craft 18-foot boat from Cobourg for a day’s worth of fishing.

But it was just after 1 p.m. when the motors in the boat stopped working.

Shortly after that the boat started taking on water from the waves and the brothers knew it was time to call for help.

“The motors died, the waves came over the back of the boat – swamped the boat and it went under water,” said Gary who spoke to Today’s Northumberland.

Luckily Gary brought his cell phone with him and called 9-1-1 as the boat was sinking.

(Dale also brought his cell phone that is likely resting on the bottom of Lake Ontario)

“I was contacting 9-1-1 as the boat was sinking and was transferred three times and then when we were in the water and kept calling them back many times, but kept losing the call. Finally we stayed connected and (they) sent the help out.”

Both brothers who were remarkably calm on shore speaking of their near death experience.

“Put the life jackets on and floated – cooler helped, cell phone worked – everything’s good,” said Gary.

With no boats in sight except for one in the distance, they knew they’d be waiting for a rescue from the Coast Guard.

A joint rescue by members of the Canadian Coast Guard, Northumberland OPP, members of 424 Search and Rescue Squadron from Trenton and Northumberland County Paramedics participated in the rescue.

Northumberland OPP Sgt. Kelly Mason said the two men were checked over by paramedics at the Coast Guard dock in Cobourg, but didn’t require treatment.

Mason credits the two men for being prepared for an emergency.

“They had life jackets, they were wearing bright colours, they had communication devices, they stayed calm and did everything they could to be in contact with emergency services.”
Mason admits, being prepared prevented a tragedy.

“These gentlemen had a cooler in addition to the life jackets to be able to hang on too, to stay above the water. That water is choppy and rough. Five nautical miles off of the shore of Lake Ontario – that is not forgiving water.”

Mason adds, because the boaters were prepared, “we have a very happy ending at the end of the day.”

As far as the cooler, Gary said they did have a 22-pound Chinook inside, but when the two men were going to use the cooler as a floating device the fish, “has now been released back into the wild. Seagulls are enjoying it right now because it’s floating.”

As the two men were walking away carrying the Igloo cooler they had been clinging too, they could be heard talking to each other jokingly wondering if the maker of the cooler would be contacting them for advertising.

Pete Fisher
Author: Pete Fisher

Has been a photojournalist for over 30-years and have been honoured to win numerous awards for photography and writing over the years. Best selling author for the book Highway of Heroes - True Patriot Love

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