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Diver Curt Brown of HMCS Prevost Naval Reserve sparked massive rescue effort

03/27/2015 09:57 EDT | Updated 05/27/2015 05:59 EDT
A Canadian naval commander has apologized for one of his members performing what an Ontario mayor called "stupid human tricks" that led to a massive and unnecessary international search and rescue effort in Sarnia, Ont.

Lt.-Cmdr. Sean Batte of HMCS Prevost Naval Reserve in London, Ont., has condemned the actions of reservist diver Curt Brown, who used a GoPro camera to film himself riding ice floes on and diving in the St. Clair River in Sarnia last weekend.

The Lambton County OPP mobilized a major search effort Saturday night after receiving a report of a man stuck on an ice floe in the St. Clair River near Sarnia.

Brown was spotted by passersby sitting on large chunks of ice. He also filmed himself dressed in a wet suit and diving under the Bluewater Bridge, a major international trade crossing that connects Sarnia and Port Huron, Mich.

Police, firefighters and both Canadian and American coast guard personnel joined in the search, but they didn't find anything.

A helicopter swept the river from 9 p.m. until 3:30 a.m. but turned up nothing.

Brown claimed to be on a training exercise for HMCS Prevost. He wasn't, according to Batte.

“Although he was not on duty, nor participating in a sanction Naval exercise, I have instructed my coxswain to gather all of the relevant facts pertaining to the incidents," Batte wrote in an email to Sarnia Mayor Mike Bradley, who took exception to Brown's actions.

Bradley voiced his "great disappointment" in Brown in an email he sent to Batte, with the subject "Stupid Human Tricks."

'A four-minute selfie'

"It was unacceptable. First of all, the cost was huge. The risk was huge," Bradley told CBC Afternoon Drive radio host Bob Steele. "And it's a sore issue in this community, because in that very same spot where this person was doing this so-called 'solo training exercise,' a firefighter from the Village of Point Edward lost his life five years ago. It brought back some bad memories."

Volunteer firefighter Gary Kendall of Point Edward was undergoing an ice water training exercise in January 2010 when he was pulled under the St. Clair River and later died.

Bradley called Brown's YouTube video "a four-minute selfie."

"A person of honour would have apologized for the inconvenience and costs that were associated with this search; however, the individual who has linked himself to the HMCS Prevost has instead arrogantly said "That's good training value for them, but needless,'" Bradley wrote to Batte.

Bradley was referring to comments attributed to Brown in the Sarnia Observer.

"I am writing to you and, by way of a copy of this correspondence, to the Minister of National Defence, as this reflects poorly on the HMCS Prevost because the individual involved has linked directly to this respected organization with his activities on an alleged "training mission" underneath the Bluewater Bridge," Bradley wrote.

Batte wrote back to the mayor:

"I would like to offer my personal apologies to you and your first responders for the risk they were required to assume due to the actions of one of my sailors.”

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