Tragedy on the Ottawa River
Derek Dunn, Lucy Hass
Inspector Murray Knowles of the Ottawa Police Service briefs the media at the ferry crossing Sunday afternoon.
January 24, 2013
The tragedy unfolding for days next to a Fitzroy family’s home finally reached something of a conclusion near midnight on Monday.
That’s when a recovery crew removed from the Ottawa River a car containing the bodies of 29-year-old Daron Graves and his mother, 61-year-old Donna. The father and husband, Dave, who asked for privacy after the accident garnered national attention, watched from his property just metres away from where the car went in at the end of Ferry Road.
The crew had been at it for many hours after the mother and son were reported missing Thursday night.
It was dangerous work for divers, as West Carleton-March Coun. Eli El-Chantiry can attest to.
He was on the scene to lend a supportive hand all around.
“Normally I wouldn’t visit the site, but I’m their councillor. And it’s sad. I just offered my assistance to every one of the crews.
“There are many efforts at every level at city hall,” he said. “It’s heartfelt for the family. I feel for them. I’m sure there’s – well, it’s sad.”
The Graves had been visiting the Prior Sportsbar in Arnprior that night, Jan. 17, where they go on many Thursday nights to eat supper and play pool after getting groceries. Daron was driving his new 2013 Dodge Dart.
They made it to within 100 feet of their home.
Sunday afternoon Inspector Murray Knowles of the Ottawa Police Service told media a single person was found inside the vehicle but weather conditions were hampering the recovery.
“As you can see, our marine dive trail unit is out preparing to do another dive in order to recover the vehicle that was discovered last evening off the pier,” Knowles said. “The conditions, as you can see, make it very difficult for us to do a recovery at this point, but we are working toward it. Divers will be entering the water momentarily (1 p.m.) in order to videotape the debris trail and so forth so we can start our recovery.”
Knowles said they wouldn’t get far on Sunday in daylight hours because of the weather, something that hampered efforts Monday as well.
“It’s fairly complex the way the vehicle is located and with the position of the ice and the thickness of the ice,” he said.
“Obviously, the current is quite substantial, which adds to the danger,” he told media gathered at the scene Sunday afternoon. “The ice is moving, so what they do is they drill a hole in the ice with a chain saw and then they launch the diver through that hole. When the ice is moving it makes it dangerous and we have to make sure that it’s done safely.
As for actually removing the vehicle from the 30-foot deep water, that presented its own challenges.
“To pull the car out right now, there’s a shelf of ice that extends out into the river that is probably 20 to 30 feet wide and it’s about a foot-and-a-half thick,” he said. “So we’re going to have to work at strategy to get that vehicle out from out there. And also the way the vehicle is located, it’s on its roof, so it’s very difficult right now to pull that out.”
The fierce cold also impacted recovery.
“Just operating in this type of temperature makes it difficult,” Knowles said.
“It took us quite a while to find it,” Knowles said of the search for the car. The divers went in two nights earlier and found a debris trail and followed that trail in poor visibility, using a grid search.
Knowles said they would try their best to remove the vehicle Sunday, but if that was not possible they would be back Monday to continue the recovery.
“We like to not disturb anything so we’re going to try and remove the vehicle intact with all of the potential evidence,” he said.
Police continue to investigate the cause. Autopsy and toxicology reports will be conducted on both bodies.
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