Ottawa man dies in front of daughter, diving off cliff
An 8-year-old girl watched in horror yesterday as her father jumped from a cliff and disappeared into the water below. The body of 35-year-old David Rothwell of Ottawa was recovered by divers this morning. Rothwell was cliff diving, illegally, at the Morrison Quarry near Chelsea, which is also home to the Great Canadian Bungee Jump. Rothwell was 75 feet up on the rocks when he made that fatal decision to launch himself into the water below. He managed to surface once, and then disappeared.
Rothwell had come to the quarry Tuesday evening around 5 p.m. with his 8-year-old daughter and some friends to spend a few hours swimming at the beautiful quarry.
He had already been warned by staff to get out of an unauthorized swim area. Police says Rothwell and a couple friends then hopped a fence to climb up prohibited cliffs to do some diving. Staff yelled to get off.
‘He was the first one to jump out of that group,’ says Bryce Morrison-Partridge. ‘I don't know whether the others were planning to. They were told to get off and did, however that man jumped.’
Rothwell surfaced once then went under. People rushed in to help.
‘There was an off-duty police officer from Montreal,’ says Martin Fournel, with the MRC des Collines Police, ‘he jumped into a raft with diving goggles because the water is clear but wasn't able to locate the individual under the water.’
The little girl was clearly in shock during the frantic search to find her father. One of the owners of the quarry guided her away from the area and wrapped her in a blanket.
Rothwell's body was found by divers early Wednesday morning about 40 feet below the surface. The quarry runs about 120 feet at its lowest point. Police are now investigating whether Rothwell and his friends were trying to record their cliff dive on their cellphones. YouTube has become a platform for thrill seekers to post their few seconds of fame but police say it is a game with deadly consequences.
‘At this point we can’t tell whether it was recorded on a smartphone,’ says Fournel, ‘but that's something we are going to look at.’
Those here to enjoy the sun and the scuba diving wonder why anyone would attempt a crazy stunt like that.
It’s kind of stupid,’ says sunbather Amanda Karam, ‘because a lot of people come here and we're not supposed to do that.’
‘I'm looking at these cliffs and they look so scary,’ says scuba diver Matyas Legate-Sary, ‘I don’t know why someone would decide to do that.’
An autopsy is being conducted to try to determine the cause of death. Police say there were no visible signs of trauma on the body, indicating Rothwell did not hit the rocks on his way down.
This is not the first tragedy at the Morrison quarry. About ten years ago, a woman died cliff diving. Then, last March, a scuba diver perished under the cold, clear water.