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Miramichi couple thankful to be alive after snowmobiles sink in river





Tom King had travelled the Miramichi River on his snowmobile countless times before. So he and his wife, Darcie Stewart-King, didn’t think much of making a journey up the river on Friday night.

The conditions looked good. There had been a few cold days and they were following the tracks of someone who had done it recently.

Now they are thankful to be alive.

“Just as we’re heading up we got to an area and I looked and didn’t like the way it was looking,” King said. “And I veered over and the next thing my sled was bogging and bogging and it was going out from underneath me because it was floating. It actually dropped way below — gone.”

Snowmobile was submerged

King was in the water, surrounded by ice, with his snowmobile submerged.

“I was trying to get over to the ice and trying to get up onto the ice,” he said. “And it was breaking away from me and all I could do was kick in and think, ‘I got to get out of here.'”

He thought Darcie was safe but worried she would try to come to his rescue. “So I was worried for her. And I was worried for our children.”

King harnessed a final burst of energy and pulled himself out of the water and onto the ice. He pulled off his helmet and gloves and started calling for his wife. He hoped that she had veered off and that she wasn’t in the water.

“I looked around and I couldn’t see Darcie. I couldn’t see any light so then I started calling her name.”

He called her name four or five times before she answered. She was about 90 metres behind him, stuck in the water. He tried to dial 911 but his phone, either because of the water or the cold, wouldn’t work.

“So I was crawling out to her and and she kept saying, ‘Don’t come any closer. Don’t come any closer, our daughter needs one parent — at least there’s one of us,’ because up until this point she thought I was dead.”

Stewart-King was able to get her arms onto the ice. When her husband got a little closer, she threw her phone to him.

Soon heard sirens

“I couldn’t access her phone because my fingers were so cold that I couldn’t access her code, but I was able to hit the emergency button and call 911.”

Soon, King said they started to hear sirens. Then, on the Chatham Head side of the Morrissy Bridge, they saw a light.

“The light started to get closer and then we just said, ‘No, don’t come closer, just get help.’ And when the light got closer she said, ‘I am the help.'”

Const. Julie O’Donnell had been in the area and arrived before the rest of the first responders.

“She’s a little smaller frame than I am … and she was able to get a hold of Darcie’s arms. And then I was able to get a hold of her and, between the two of us, we were able to pull Darcie out of the water.”

Police officers, firefighters and paramedics soon arrived and the couple was taken to hospital. Stewart-King was kept overnight as her core temperature was low. Now they’ve both been released.

King isn’t sure what exactly went wrong.

“Traditionally, there’s fast water underneath the Morrissy Bridge and maybe it was fast water that didn’t freeze. I was following another track going up so and then I saw where things changed. The ice may have cracked, there could’ve been a high tide — anything could have happened,”

Conditions hard to predict

Scott Ralston, president of the New Brunswick Federation of Snowmobile Clubs, said this winter, it has been particularly difficult to predict what conditions will be like off the trails.

“This year certainly has been a little different because we’ve had a couple of thaws and there’s been some some high water late in December and it certainly affects the safety of river crossings,” he said. “And, some areas of the province, actually the ice broke up and started to flow. So it’s certainly kind of plays havoc.”

Ralston said drivers should stick to the trails and marked crossings to ensure their safety.

What happened Friday night hasn’t affected King’s love for the sport. He said he would get on a snowmobile today if he had one.

“We just happened to be in a snowmobile accident — our lives didn’t end, they very well easily could have. But they didn’t. So life has to go on.”


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‘Too soon to celebrate’ Ottawa’s low case count, says Etches





Ottawa Public Health (OPH) logged just 11 new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday, the lowest daily total since Sept. 1.

Because of the lag between testing and reporting, the low number could simply reflect low turnout at the city’s testing sites on weekends — all month, new case counts have been lower on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. 

During a virtual news conference Tuesday, the city’s medical officer of health Dr. Vera Etches said she doesn’t read too much into a single day’s report.

“I don’t think we can make too much of 11. Actually, it could be a lot higher tomorrow — I would expect that, on average,” she said. “It’s too soon to celebrate.”

Provincewide, public health officials reported 1, 249 new cases Tuesday.

OPH also declared 62 cases resolved Tuesday, lowering the number of known active cases in the city to 462. Two more people have died, both in care homes currently experiencing outbreaks, raising the city’s COVID-19 death toll to 361. 

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Santa Claus isn’t coming to Ottawa’s major malls this year





Santa Claus may still be coming to town this Christmas, but he won’t be dropping by any of Ottawa’s major malls, thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic.

On Friday, Cadillac Fairview said Santa won’t be making an appearance at any of its 19 malls across Canada, including Rideau Centre in downtown Ottawa. On Tuesday, Bayshore and St. Laurent shopping centres confirmed they, too, are scrapping the annual tradition.

“Due to the evolution of the situation in regards to COVID-19, we have made the difficult decision to cancel our Santa Program and Gift Wrap Program this year,” Bayshore spokesperson Sara Macdonald wrote in an email to CBC.

Macdonald said parent company Ivanhoé Cambridge cancelled all holiday activities “due to the rising number of COVID-19 cases across the country.”

Macdonald said families that had already booked an appointment to visit Santa will receive an email with more information.  

Virtual visits with Santa

Rideau Centre said based on customer research and discussions with public health officials, its North Pole is going online this year.

“Children will be able to have a private chat with Santa,” said Craig Flannagan, vice-president of marketing for Cadillac Fairview. “You’ll also be able to join a 15-minute storytime with Santa over Facebook Live.” 

At Place d’Orléans Shopping Centre, visitors are invited to take a “selfie with Santa” — actually, a life-size cutout of Santa Pierre, the man who’s been playing Santa at the east end mall for years.

“We understand that this is not ideal, but in lieu of this tradition we will be doing what we can to maintain and encourage holiday cheer,” according to a statement on the mall’s Facebook page.

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Ottawa Bylaw breaks up two large parties in Ottawa over the weekend





OTTAWA — Ottawa Bylaw is investigating social gatherings of more than 10 people in private homes across Ottawa last weekend.

Mayor Jim Watson tells Newstalk 580 CFRA that Ottawa Bylaw broke-up two house parties over the weekend, with 20 to 25 people at each party.

“That’s the kind of stupidity that angers me, that’s where the bulk of the transmissions are taking place, if we exclude the tragedy of the long-term care homes; it’s these house parties with unrelated people,” said Watson on Newstalk 580 CFRA’s Ottawa at Work with Leslie Roberts.

“The message doesn’t seem to be getting through, particularly to some young people who think they’re invincible.”

In a statement to CTV News Ottawa, Bylaw and Regulatory Services Director Roger Chapman says, “There are still ongoing investigations from this past weekend that could result in charges.”

Chapman says recent investigations led to two charges being issued for social gatherings of more than 10 people in a private residence in contravention of the Reopening Ontario Act.

“In one case, up to 30 individuals were observed attending a house party in Ward 18 on Oct. 24,” said Chapman.

“The second charge was issued following a house party in Ward 16 on Oct. 31, where up to 16 individuals were observed to be in attendance.”

The fine is $880 for hosting an illegal gathering.

Alta Vista is Ward 18, while Ward 16 is River Ward.

Ottawa Bylaw has issued 24 charges for illegal gatherings since the start of the pandemic.

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