Members of the Ontario Provincial Police Aviation Services, from general headquarters in Orillia, prepare their helicopter at Charleston Lake Provincial Park Monday for a search and rescue operation, after two people who were hiking Sunday went missing. Two helicopters were being used. Keith Dempsey, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

UPDATE: Two bodies recovered from Charleston Lake

Search and rescue efforts were continuing on the afternoon of Monday, Feb. 12 for two people who went missing after falling through ice on Charleston Lake while hiking on Sunday.

One person managed to pull themselves from the freezing waters, but two people were still missing as of late Monday afternoon.

“The one was self-excavated, he managed to get out of the ice by himself,” said Ontario Provincial Police Cst. Joey Mason. “He was then able to grab attention of someone who called 911 on his behalf.”

At first, Mason and the OPP said the individuals were out ice fishing, then later in the day changed course and said they were hiking. TLTI Fire Services Fire Chief, Mike Prior, confirmed this.

The Emergency Response Team (ERT), Aviation Services, Underwater Search and Recovery Unit (USRU), Joint Rescue Coordination Centre (JRCC), Leeds and Thousand Islands Fire Department (TLTI), and Rideau Lakes Fire Department were continuing to search for the missing people as of Monday afternoon.

Charleston Lake Provincial Park was closed to the public Monday while the police investigation continued. A park ranger was stationed at the entrance to the park, blocking traffic. A media-meeting area was setup inside the park.

As of Monday afternoon, police did not release the names of the individuals or where they resided.

By around 1 p.m. on Monday, helicopters were still being used to search the wooded area. Two helicopters, the OPP confirmed, were being used.

“We’re not sure if they’re in the woods around the lake or in the lake still,” said Mason.

Prior said two of his firefighters were injured during the search and rescue attempts Sunday evening.

“One had sore knees and the other had twisted a knee,” said Prior. “The one guy went to the hospital to get checked out, while the other said he was OK and didn’t go to the hospital.”

The assistance from the helicopter was needed because those in need of rescue were “out at the end of almost a 10-kilometre trail,” said Prior.

Prior has been Fire Chief since 2021 and has been on the fire department for 36 years.

“This was by far my biggest operation as chief,” said Prior. “My biggest coordination of services.”

Prior urged the public to stay off the ice.

“My biggest message, and I’ll be quite honest, stay the heck off the ice,” said Prior.

Mason echoed Prior’s comments.

“No ice is safe ice,” said Mason.

Anyone with information pertaining to the missing persons is asked to contact the OPP non-emergency line at 1-888-310-1122.

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