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Recent death renewing warnings about the dangers of the Deschenes Rapids


After the death of a man on the Ottawa River this week there is a renewed warning from first responders about safety on the water.

"Our water rescue teams have been out multiple times and the Deschênes Rapids are notoriously the busiest spot for rescues for our water rescue teams every year," said Ottawa Fire Services spokesperson Nick DeFazio.

In the last two months, Ottawa Fire's water rescue teams, made up of specially trained firefighters who perform rescues under challenging conditions, have been out on calls nearly every shift.

Ottawa Fire’s water rescue teams have responded to calls nearly every shift for the last several weeks. (Dave Charbonneau/CTV News Ottawa)

"A lot of the residents don't realize the rapids are there. The current is extremely strong, even where the water looks calm," DeFazio said. "They find themselves in the rapids before they know it and that's when they get themselves into distress."

CTV News Ottawa went out on the Ottawa River with one of the rescue crews to see first-hand the challenges of this particular area of the river.

In the water near the Britannia Yacht Club in Ottawa's west end, there are markers telling people not to go beyond a particular point and from a distance the water looks unassuming. It's only when you get past those markers or below the rapids where you can see an abrupt and significant drop, making it one of the most dangerous areas for a water rescue — for the person or vessel trapped and for rescue crews.

"It's very shallow up top and that's where the boater is getting into problems," said Acting Lieutenant Trevor Wozniak. "Before they get into the rapids they don't see this at all. And before they know it, they hit a rock and then they're stuck in the rapids."

CTV News Ottawa joined an Ottawa Fire Services water rescue team on the Ottawa River to see the dangers of the Deschênes Rapids first-hand. (Dave Charbonneau/CTV News Ottawa)

On Tuesday, a man died after he was rescued from the Deschênes Rapids. He had been trying to retrieve a boat that had capsized a week earlier. In that case, the boat's occupants were able to get out safely.

"It's risky for us to operate in there as well. Whenever we're operating here, we actually have two boats," said Byron Zeyl with Ottawa Fire. "We always have a second boat downstream that's actually down here waiting in case something happens to us as well."

If you're heading out on the water, first responders say wearing your life jacket and knowing the area where you're going are key.

"There are a lot of areas where the water just dips right down and becomes really deep," said DeFazio. "And check your weather app. Know that the weather can change quickly and the winds can pick up fast and your boat or your inflatable can start getting pushed towards these rapids in a moment's time." Top Stories

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