UPDATE: Tragedy on Dark Lake
|By Lisa Gervais - Editor | February 23, 2017|
Cottager Robert ‘Bob’ Bell’s was “the most kind, respectful and loving person to his wife and his two girls and everyone he ever loved and met,” his daughter, Gail Bell, told The Highlander Wednesday.
The family was trying to come to terms with Bell’s death Saturday after the snowmobile he and wife Roxanne were riding went through the ice on Dark Lake near Wilberforce Saturday night.
Bancroft OPP confirmed on Tuesday that the body of Bell, 53, of Mount Albert, Ont. was recovered from the lake Monday morning by the OPP Underwater Search and Recovery Unit.
OPP said they responded to a snowmobile going through the lake about 8.25 p.m. Saturday.
“Officers attended the scene and determined that the operator and passenger entered the water on the [snowmobile] and only the female passenger was able to get out of the water to safety,” a release said.
Ben Hicks told The Highlander that he was at a party Saturday night when he and the people he was with heard screaming.
Hicks said they knew someone was in trouble.
He could see a commotion near the road bridge on Loop Road.
Hicks said he grabbed a rope from his parked snowmobile and ran across the lake towards where he could hear the screaming and see emergency vehicles on the bridge.
He said there were other people on the ice when he arrived, trying to help a man and a woman whose snowmobile had plunged through the ice.
Hicks said another bystander had brought the woman – who he now knows was Roxanne Bell – to the edge of the water but had then fallen in himself. Hicks said he threw the woman the rope. He said he talked to her the whole time he was pulling her up and out, telling her to keep her elbows up and to remain calm.
“I pulled her up and slid her across the ice. Thank God she had enough strength,” Hicks said in an interview Once she was safe, he and a friend stripped her soaking clothes to the base layer and walked her to a nearby motor vehicle so she could be taken to her cottage.
Hicks said the woman was worried about her husband. He said he didn’t know what was happening with the man but told the woman “he’s okay” as he wanted to get her up the hill from the lake, into a warm car and to a warm place.
Meanwhile, Bob Bell was still missing so Hicks returned to the lake to see if he could help others to get him out. But there was nothing that could be done. While rescuers found Bell’s helmet, he had already sunk below the surface.
“Unbelievable,” said Barb MacDonald of Dark Lake, who was on an ATV near the site of the accident Sunday morning. “It’s just so sad, that’s all I can say. It’s not what you expect … coming up for a Family Day long weekend.”
Sandra Lorraine Nicholson wrote on The Highlander’s Facebook page, “Bob and Roxanne were always happy and full of life. Bob will be missed by his family and the many, many friends who loved him. It is a very sad time. We have lost a wonderful man. Safe journeys Bob.
“This marks the second snowmobile fatality on the lake in a year. Last January, Thomas Rivers, 53, of Wilberforce died when the snowmobile he was riding went through the ice.
LISA GERVAIS is the editor for The Highlander.