Search turns to recovery of scuba diver in South Stormont

Cornwall and South Stormont firefighters stand on the shoreline of Macdonell Island on Tuesday, June 11, 2019 while an O.P.P. boat searches Lock 21 for a missing diver. O.P.P. say two scuba divers were exploring the popular tourist spot when one didn't surface. (Newswatch Group/Bill Kingston)

LONG SAULT – An intense search for a scuba diver turned to a recovery around midday today (Tuesday) in the St. Lawrence River in South Stormont.

SD&G O.P.P. Sgt. Greg Smith told Cornwall Newswatch they got a call around 9 a.m. about a diver who ran into trouble at Lock 21 on Macdonell Island.

“O.P.P. received a call about a diving incident here at Lock 21. Two males were diving in the area. One of them surfaced, the other one didn’t. At that point we deployed resources to the area,” Smith told CNW at the scene.

A number of agencies helped in the search, including the Cornwall Fire Department (rescue boat), South Stormont Fire Department, SD&G O.P.P. specialized units, Cornwall RCMP (two boats), U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Canadian Coast Guard and the Joint Rescue Coordination Center from CFB Trenton with its helicopter.

Smith said, at 10:30 a.m., the search was considered a “rescue” and they have “calls in” to a couple of different dive teams to help.

“Right now we can’t really say why one of them didn’t surface.”

Around 11 a.m. the chopper from JRCC stopped flying and a number of fire department and police resources were scaled back. An O.P.P. boat clung to the south shore around the middle of Macdonell Island while two other boats were concentrating their search around the southeast end of the island off Memorial Beach.

As of 12:27 p.m., the search was continuing. Just before 1 p.m. the chopper made one more pass before leaving the scene. Shortly after, Cornwall-SDG Paramedic Services and Cornwall and South Stormont firefighters left the scene, suggesting the active search was over around 1:20 p.m.

Shortly after 2 p.m., SD&G O.P.P. closed off the perimeter of Lock 21, leaving only two vehicles – a dark-coloured Jeep SUV and a silver Toyota sedan – on the grass at the launch area. The two vehicles had been there all morning. A man in a jacket and shorts stood alone on the grass at the lock, presumably the other diver.

Around 2:20 p.m., police escorted a small car into the scene. Two women could be seen talking with police investigators and one was hugging the man at one point.

An underwater search is scheduled to continue tomorrow (Wednesday).

A helicopter from the Joint Rescue Coordinator Center at CFB Trenton searches the St. Lawrence River near Lock 21 on Tuesday, June 11, 2019 during a search for a scuba diver. (Newswatch Group/Bill Kingston)
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