Rescuer honoured by Governor General

A former Red Deer man received a Governor General’s award on Monday for helping save three boaters on Gull Lake during the Victoria Day long weekend in 2008.

A former Red Deer man received a Governor General’s award on Monday for helping save three boaters on Gull Lake during the Victoria Day long weekend in 2008.

Rob Steenwyk, who now lives in Kelowna, and friend Ralph Kaiser of Sherwood Park were members of the search party looking for three anglers who got caught in a storm on the lake.

Their five-metre fibreglass outboard boat ran out of gas and their battery died before they could make it back to shore. Their boat filled with water and they were found by rescuers floating in the water with extreme hypothermia.

All three were wearing life-jackets.

Steenwyk, family and friends were camping at the lake when he heard about the missing men — James Shettler, Joey Chapman and Andy Baker.

The RCMP asked Steenwyk and Kaiser to join the search, a first for Steenwyk.

“I’d hope anyone would take that same action,” said Steenwyk, who was to receive his Certificate of Commendation at Kelowna City Hall from Kelowna Mayor Sharon Shepherd, presented on behalf the Gov. Gen. Michaëlle Jean.

Steenwyk, 44, was excited to get award but downplayed his role in the rescue.

“I just happened to be there at the right time and right place,” said Steenwyk, who has boated since he was 14.

Kaiser was to receive his award in Edmonton on Monday.

Police said shortly after the three men launched their boat on May 18 at 4:30 p.m., a weather system passed through bringing high winds and rain. The storm, combined with their inexperience and a string of bad luck, conspired to sink the boat.

At about 10:30 p.m., after scouring the north end of the lake, Steenwyk was about to abandon the search when he caught a glimpse of something in the distance on the east side of the lake.

The triangular shape in the water turned out to be the bow of the boat.

Steenwyk and Kaiser were able to pull all three into a boat to get them safely back to shore.

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