‘Safety concerns’ hamper removal of vehicle from Lake Ontario

After more than a month and three failed attempts, the vehicle that entered Lake Ontario on January 20, 2023, was successfully removed from the water on Friday, Feb. 24, 2023. Photo by Cris Vilela/Kingstonist.

Update (Friday, Feb. 24, 2023, at 1:15 p.m.):
After four hours, members of the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP), a dive team, and crews with Dave’s Towing were able to successfully remove the vehicle that entered Lake Ontario on the morning of Friday, Jan. 20, 2023.

Exactly five weeks after the tragic incident claimed the life of one local woman, the vehicle — which authorities, dive teams, and tow crews had previously attempted to retrieve several times unsuccessfully (see below) — was lowered onto the pavement of Bath Road (Highway 33) in Amherstview around 1 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 24, 2023.

Despite the sunny day, the teams worked in cold temperatures of -9 C, which was presumably much colder for those who got wet, despite wetsuits designed for the climate. Nonetheless, all were pleased to see the operation successful — particularly after multiple failed attempts prolonged the process.

Original article:

Diving and towing crews set up before beginning operations to retrieve a vehicle from Lake Ontario on Friday, Feb. 24, 2023. Photo by Cris Vilela/Kingstonist.

After three prior planned road closures for the removal of a vehicle from Lake Ontario just off the shores of Amherstview, all of which were unsuccessful, a fourth attempt is now taking place on Friday, Feb. 24, 2023.

The vehicle, which entered the water on the morning of Friday, Jan. 20, 2023, acts as a sad reminder of the tragic events that unfolded that day. Later on January 20, the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) confirmed that the female driver of the vehicle – which appeared to drive directly into the lake at the intersection of Bath Road (Highway 33) and County Road 6 – was recovered from the water deceased.

Since then, Bath Road and County Road 6 have been closed to allow for the removal of the vehicle multiple times; however, those efforts have been for naught. While the Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks (MOE) is often involved in the removal of vehicles from waterways – and, perhaps more importantly, ensuring no contamination of the water from leaking vehicular fluids – area residents noted that representatives from the Ministry of Labour, Immigration, Training and Skills Development (MOL) had become involved at the scene of the attempted vehicle removals.

When removing a vehicle from the water requires a dive team, those organizing the operation are required to notify the MOL.

“Each constructor of a project where a diving operation is to take place, each employer associated with a diving operation and each owner associated with a diving operation must ensure that the ministry is given notice of the diving operation,” the Ministry explained via email in response to Kingstonist inquiries.

In fact, Regulation 629/64, “Diving Operations,” of the Occupational Health and Safety Act outlines this requirement in detail.

And while the MOL confirmed that they were notified of a diving operation by the OPP on January 20, 2023, that was with regard to emergency services diving, not for diving operations associated with the retrieval of the vehicle.

“The ministry has not been notified of any other diving operations at the intersection of County Road 6 and Bath Road (Hwy 33),” the MOL said on Thursday, Feb. 16, 2023.

However, those living in the Kingston, Amhertview, and Loyalist Township areas will know that diving operations had been planned between January 20 and February 16. The OPP alerted the public of the road closures taking place to facilitate the attempted vehicle retrieval three times prior to the attempt that occurred today, Friday, Feb. 24, 2023. Those attempts, according to notice given by the OPP, occurred on January 27, February 7, and February 15. And it appears it was those operations that led to the MOL’s involvement in the situation again, following the initial incident.

“The ministry received health and safety complaints on February 6, 2023, and February 15, 2023, regarding dive operations. As these complaints are currently under investigation, the ministry cannot comment further,” the MOL said, noting that it is “not responsible for scheduling or completing the retrieval of this vehicle.”

“Our priority in this instance is the health and safety of workers present at the site. You may wish to contact the Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks with your questions regarding the environmental impact of the vehicle’s presence.”

For their part, the MOE said that, when their ministry was made aware of the incident, “ministry staff followed up to ensure plans were in place to have the vehicle removed from the water.”

“As there was a fatality involved in the incident, the OPP has been coordinating plans with the insurance company to have the vehicle removed from the water,” the MOE said in response to Kingstonist inquiries.

“The ministry has not been made aware of any spills to the water from the incident requiring ministry involvement at this time.”

The MOE would not comment on the involvement of the MOL in this situation.

So why have attempts to remove the vehicle from the water failed? And why was the MOL not notified of planned dive attempts? A source with inside knowledge of the situation, who will remain anonymous for fear of employment retribution, explained that the shifting of responsibility to the vehicle owner’s insurance company added to the confusing debacle.

According to the source, who is familiar with both the initial incident and the vehicle recovery details, the OPP initially suggested a local recovery company who they knew was qualified and had the equipment to do the recovery. Instead, the relevant insurance company opted to go with a cheaper, out-of-area option. The first three attempts were unsuccessful and demonstrated the contracted company’s inability to safely conduct the recovery – resulting in the involvement of the MOL, who are now “investigating a number of complaints.”

Today’s attempt, the source confirmed, is being conducted with a sub-contracted local company who will use an inflation device to safely lift the vehicle and subsequently remove it from the water with a tow.

This article will be updated when more information becomes available.

2 thoughts on “‘Safety concerns’ hamper removal of vehicle from Lake Ontario

  • Thank you for the update. Hopefully, the vehicle is safely removed today. There is minimal notice to residents of the planned removal attempts and many are concerned for their shore wells. Low price contracting to out of area company not taking in local water and ice conditions puts workers and first responders at risk.

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