A local athlete is grateful for four off-duty members of the Ottawa police dive team who pulled his custom-made wheelchair from the bottom of the Ottawa River.
Peter Morel, a competitive Para rower for the past five years, was training at the Ottawa Rowing Club Wednesday when his chair disappeared.
The chair normally sits on the rowing club's dock during training but someone had moved it, which disabled the brakes. When Morel and his training partners returned to the dock, there were only two chairs for three people.
The chair rolled into the river and sank to the bottom, they believe, with Morel's car keys contained inside one pocket. As a result, not only was Morel's chair gone but his car was also towed.
$7,600 to replace custom-made chair
Morel borrowed a spare wheelchair from a friend but he needed to get his chair out of the river, as it could have cost about $7,600 to replace.
So he phoned his friends at the police dive team.
"A lot of times, the Ottawa police dive team uses our docks for training purposes and we thought maybe we could give them a call and see if they could help out," Morel said.
On Thursday morning, the four divers arrived while off duty and they retrieved the chair, which was down about nine metres under water. It took less than 10 minutes to find the chair, but an hour to prepare for the dive, onlookers said.
"For them to find something that small in that deep water is just incredible, and to have it back is huge," Morel said.
The chair is still waterlogged so Morel continues to use the spare wheelchair. He will also have to replace the bearings on his wheels and get it cleaned, he said.