Islanders receive OPP awards

Manitoulin OPP Inspector Megan Moriarity, left, presents an Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) Commendation Award to Robert Mathia of Kagawong, for his efforts in finding a woman who was missing in an incident that occurred in 2021.

MANITOULIN—Two Manitoulin Island residents, Ursula Hettman of Dominion Bay and Robert Mathia of Kagawong, have been recognized for their efforts in saving the lives of residents in two separate incidents in 2021. Manitoulin Island Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) Inspector Megan Moriarity had the pleasure of presenting the two awards. Ms. Hettman received the OPP Commissioner’s Citation for Lifesaving, while Mr. Mathia was presented with an OPP Commendation Award for finding a woman who was missing.

A woman and her baby, who were found in Lake Huron on a cold January day, were extremely fortunate Ursula Hettman of Dominion Bay and a neighbouring couple (who requested to remain anonymous) along with OPP officers, were around to save them.

And it was for their efforts that they received OPP Commissioner’s Citation for Lifesaving awards. The OPP citation for lifesaving, “recognizes acts of lifesaving by a member of the community or the OPP.”

“It was a miracle that the woman and her baby survived,” Ms. Hettman told The Expositor. “A family had rented a nearby place. The incident took place in the winter. I went to the beach for a walk with my dog and could see something in the water, but it wasn’t moving, and there were cracks in the ice.”

“There was a lady who I knew and she had her baby on her left hip and both were in the water, along with their dog,” said Ms. Hettman. “I yelled ‘help me’ and fortunately someone came by to help out.”

The OPP Northeast region, in providing information on the incident reported, “on January 23, 2021, a distraught woman walked into Lake Huron while holding her baby and dog. The temperature was -15° Celsius, and the baby and woman were not dressed for the weather. Ursula Hettman noticed the woman and realized that something was not right. Ursula called to the woman but did not get a response. Ursula raced to a neighbour’s house for assistance (two neighbours) and they all went to the beach location where the mother and baby were located.”

A man who was on hand, “approached the woman in the water and attempted to take the baby and dog from her. The woman resisted, (but the couple on hand) were able to take custody of both,” the OPP reports. A neighbouring lady, “quickly took the baby and dog inside and began to warm them.”

The third person was able to get the distraught woman out of the water and into a warm home. The woman and baby were both transported to the hospital and released a few hours later.

“The main thing is that everyone was okay,” said Ms. Hettman.

“Today, we honour these individuals for their compassion and action, which saved the lives of the woman, her baby and her pet,” the OPP reported.

The OPP Northeast region reported that, “On May 14, 2021, OPP officers were responding to reports of a missing person in Gore Bay. The person was in distress and there were concerns for their safety. The OPP emergency response team, canine unit and the OPP helicopter began to search the vast area where this person may be located.”

“Robert Mathia offered to assist the OPP by searching personal property, which included a length of shoreline on Lake Kagawong. While Robert walked the family dog, Dev, and passed the shoreline, they located the missing person,” the OPP reports.

The OPP explained, “the (missing) person was down a nine-meter embankment, had an injured leg and was shivering. The person had spent the night in the bush and was no longer able to walk. Robert stayed with the person and comforted them until police were able to reach them by boat.”

“Today, we honour Robert Mathia for locating the missing person and comforting them until police arrived,” the OPP states. The Expositor was unable to reach Mr. Mathia for comment prior to this week’s press deadline.