Officers save boys and rescue couple during northern Ontario expedition

By Ron Fanfair, Toronto Police Service Published: 8:57 a.m. August 10, 2016
Updated: 10:56 a.m. September 14, 2016

Service members were summoned into action on two occasions to save lives while participating in this year’s Toronto Recreational Outreach Outtripping Program (TROOP) in Algonquin Provincial Park.

Lake shoreline with many trees, a moose in the water in the foreground and several canoes behind it
Young TROOP participants canoe in Alogonquin Provincial Park

The first rescue took place on July 20, while the TROOP contingent were resting and swimming at a beach at Pog Lake campground.

When Constable Laura Langdon heard a citizen tell his wife that he could see two children in distress in the water, way out in the lake, she jumped into action. She identified herself and was told by the citizen – who had binoculars and was combing the lake surface with the expecation of seeing a loon when he spotted the two boys – that they were about a kilometre away.

Constable Vince Langdon, Laura’s husband, and Constable William Gordon of 12 Division took a kayak to retrieve the boys.

“We quickly located them as they were holding on to a large tree in the water,” said Langdon. “Cold and exhausted, they said they had ventured out from the beach in hopes of reaching what appeared to be a large rock on the other side of the lake they assumed they could jump from into the lake. When they swam close enough, they figured it was not a good place to jump from. When they looked back, they realized it was too far to swim back.”

On July 26, while escorting youth participants to the shoreline of Whitefish Lake to begin teaching them basic canoe skills, Langdon noticed something moving around in the water, about a kilometre from the shoreline.

When Constable Daniel Ramos and youth participant Rhys Langdon – he’s trained in canoe rescue skills – arrived on the scene by canoe, they found a man and woman, in their mid-20s, in the water without flotation devices.

Their canoe had capsized.

“Their clothing and footwear severely inhibited their ability to swim and the two had frantically tried to keep their heads above water,” Langdon pointed out. “The light current had taken their canoe, lifejackets, paddles and other assorted gear down river.”

Gordon retrieved the paddles and lifejackets and located the submerged canoe.

Reunited with their canoe and properly outfitted with their personal flotation devices, the pair was escorted back to the mainland by Gordon and Ramos.

Langdon said this is not the first time they have been engaged in rescue acts since the TROOP program started a decade ago.

“About five years ago, a young lady leading a group of kids from the YMCA sounded an international distress code around 6 a.m. in the morning,” he recalled. “When we responded, we found that two bears had invaded their camp and ate all their food. We used bear bangers, which are explosive charges that shoot into the air, to scare the bears away and then provided the group with food because their trip was scheduled to end three days later.”

Two canoes with youth and adults in them, with a lake shoreline in the background
TROOP participants enjoy a day in the water with Toronto cops

Langdon and his wife started the ProAction-sponsored TROOP program to introduce young people to outdoor life.

“We love camping. When my wife was assigned to the domestic violence unit, she was introduced to kids stuck in shelters without the opportunity to enjoy the outdoors,” he said. Now, we do three trips a year, each lasting five days, and it’s for victims of crime or vulnerable youth.

TPS crest watermark