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Birder helps Ottawa police rescue missing man in Bruce Pit

"The man had a pre-existing medical condition needing regular medication, temperatures were soaring, he was exhausted, dehydrated and without water," said Cst. Robert McConnachie.
USED 2021-05-24 Bruce Pit MV17
Bruce Pit, Ottawa. Mike Vlasveld/ CityNews

A man in his 70s is safe thanks to Ottawa police and a bird watcher with a keen ear.

Police say an elderly man had gone for a walk with his dog at Bruce Pit on a very hot and humid August 13, and got stuck in the mud for several hours.

Marcel Gahbauer, meanwhile was out for one of his daily walks when he was stopped on his way into the park by a police officer who advised him they were searching for a missing man.

Gahbauer likes to search for wildlife, so after walking a ways and keeping his ears open and eyes peeled, he heard a cry for help.

"I’m glad the police alerted me, so I was in a mindset to listen and look for someone," he said. "Even though I didn’t expect to encounter him."

Gahbauer says he called out to let the man know he was coming. The man’s dog met him and led him along a remote path.

"If he hadn’t been calling out, I would have missed him."

Gahbauer found the man lying on the side of a creek at the bottom of a muddy bank. 

"He was exhausted and disoriented. He was definitely stuck. It was impossible for me to lift him out myself," explained the good Samaritan.

Gahbauer dialed 911 and gave the telecommunicator his location to send the officers and paramedics.

Cst. Robert McConnachie has 13 years of experience as a member of the OPS Emergency Services Unit that looks for missing people. 

"Navigating through wooded areas to find people in distress is what we train for," he said.

Police and paramedics freed the man and carried him on a stretcher about 300 metres through the forest to safety. While doing so, they endured extreme heat, bugs and trip hazards.

"It was incredibly lucky Mr. Gahbauer found him," said Cst. McConnachie. "The man had a pre-existing medical condition needing regular medication, temperatures were soaring, he was exhausted, dehydrated and without water."

Cst. McConnachie went on to say that based on the information officers had about where the man usually walked, they had been searching elsewhere for about an hour and a half. They wouldn’t have gotten to his location for at least a few hours. 

"In a situation like this, those extra minutes could be crucial to his wellbeing."

Gahbauer says he was glad he was in the right place at the right time.

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