Emergency crews rescued a group of 26 ice fishermen on Lake Simcoe north of Toronto, provincial police say.
Police spokesman Sgt. Peter Leon told CBC News Friday that officers were deployed as soon as they received news that a group of fishermen were stranded on an ice floe being carried away on choppy waters. The rescue effort involved a helicopter as well as airboats, which use an aircraft-type propeller to cross water and ice.
One person who fell in the water was taken to Barrie's Royal Victoria Regional Health Centre with non-life-threatening injuries. As many as four others also had to be plucked from the icy water.
Leon said ice broke away from the fishermen Friday afternoon when there was a sudden shift in wind, and those same strong winds hampered the rescue effort.
Among those saved was Karen Hisey, who said she realized something was wrong when she heard screaming from fishermen closer to the shore shortly before noon.
"It was just so fast," she said. "Every direction we tried to go was not good because [the ice] was just opening up."
"Incredibly, that was the only injury here," CBC's Trevor Dunn reported from the scene at the western shore of Lake Simcoe near the community of Shanty Bay.
As the drifting ice floe broke up, two firefighters standing on it fell into the water themselves. They were rescued shortly after by emergency crews aboard an airboat.
"It was kind of like a Hollywood ending," Dunn reported.
Initial reports said the original ice floe the fishermen were on was about two kilometres long.
The situation could have been far worse had rescue crews not showed up when they did, said Barrie volunteer firefighter Rob Elrick.
"Ice was moving quite quickly across the bay and breaking up quite quickly, so if it were about 15, 20 minutes later, a lot of those guys would have been in the water," he said.
Hisey said conditions were good when she and the other fishermen went out in the morning.
"The ice was a little bit thin, but we've walked on thin ice before. And then everybody started screaming and yelling behind us, and we looked and the ice had all opened up behind us. It was really, really windy."
Police are cautioning the public not to venture out onto the ice or water due to the unpredictable weather.
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