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Firefighters, police honoured for rescue


Several firefighters and police officers from both sides of the border were commended for their teamwork in rescuing five snowmobilers who went through the ice near the Ranier Bridge on Feb. 28 last year.

Insp. Shawn Hayes, director of operations for the OPP’s North West, was at the Civic Centre on Thursday morning to hand out letters of commendation from OPP Commissioner Gwen Boniface.

The recipients from the Fort Frances Fire Department included full-time firefighters Wayne Riches and Greg Allan, and volunteer firefighter Ray Herbert.

Fire Chief Steve Richardson accepted the letters on behalf of Allan and Herbert.

Also recognized were Deputy Sheriffs John Kalstad and James Kennedy Jr. of the Koochiching County Sheriff’s Department, Patrolman Mike Lee of the International Falls Police Department, Minnesota Highway Patrol trooper Gary Harms, and dispatcher Murray Gushulak.

Fort Frances OPP S/Sgt. Hugh Dennis noted several OPP officers involved in the rescue previously were commended by Regional Commander Superintendent Allan Dawson.

These officers included Cst. Al MacDonald, Cst. Chuck MacDonald, Cst. Rob Lewis, Cst. Kevin Hicks, Cst. Craig Smith, and CNR Cst. Pete LeDrew.

“They undoubtedly saved the lives of five people that night,” noted S/Sgt. Dennis, adding the rescue effort was indicative of the relationship between Canada and the U.S.

“If there’s an emergency, both sides respond. It was truly something to behold,” he remarked.

Thursday morning’s ceremony also was attended by Mayor Dan Onichuk, Coun. Neil Kabel, and John McTaggart of the local Police Services Board.

The rescue effort took place after five men from Minnesota drove their snowmachines into the open, icy waters near the Ranier Bridge. The men spent at least 30 minutes in the water before they were rescued.

The men were taken to La Verendrye hospital here, where they were released a short time later with no serious injuries.

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