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Barrie firefighters recognized for 'incredible' rescue

Seth Rowe considers himself lucky to attend a Barrie City Council meeting Monday night, although watching a recognition ceremony for 50 firefighters brought back some painful memories.
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Seth Rowe considered himself lucky to attend a Barrie City Council meeting Monday night, although watching a recognition ceremony for 50 firefighters brought back some painful memories.

Rowe and his wife Jamie Murray attended the meeting to show their appreciation to the rescue workers who freed him from a deep, cold, dark crevice where he was trapped 40-feet down for over 22 hours last June. 

"I had some of the skin scraped off my back and both my knees were blown out because I used them to stop falling," Rowe said.

"It's part of the excrutiating pain I went through to get out of there and stay alive.

"Barrie's deputy fire chief Bill Boys was one of the rescuers and he called efforts “the most complicated and complex rescue” and “a coordination and collaboration to save a life.”

“These were very challenging and remote conditions, about five kilometres off the main roadway, 40 feet down in a crevice that was very cold, icy and snowy,” said the Deputy Chief, acknowledging the teamwork and efforts of individuals including a firefighter who spent five hours deep in the crevice with Rowe.

Rowe remembers falling and feeling tired and scared after he slipped into the tight crevice just off the Bruce Trail. He had been squeezing between rocks, but realized he wouldn't be able to fit any further. When he moved his foot, the rock collapsed and he fell.

“I didn’t know what was going to happen, but for the first few hours I tried to rest. I was by myself and nobody knew where I was,” Rowe said outside a Barrie City Council meeting Monday. “I was trying to rest so I could climb back out and I remember calling for help.

After about eight hours alone in the dark, Rowe's screams for help were heard by two hikers who called 9-1-1 and launched an arduous 14-hour rescue that involved about 50 firefighters working alongside OPP and Simcoe County Paramedics. Toronto Fire also participated in the rescue. 

"Nobody could find the entrance where I went in, so they had to chip out a space that was just about six inches wide to pull my body out."

A worried Murray had been out searching for her husband when he didn't return home as expected and she received rushed to the scene after receiving a phone call telling her he was trapped. 

"There were moments that I worried they wouldn't be able to get him out," she said. "I handled it well because the firefighters handled it well. They were so calm and they had a plan. We are so grateful."

Rowe has returned to the trail many times since June, once to retrieve his jacket from the crevice.

"I remember when they got me out I was so tired and really out of it, but I was surprised it was bright because I expected it to still be night," he explained. "When I went back I started in and I panicked." 

Firefighters received City of Barrie awards of merit for their efforts which Mayor Jeff Lehman called "a whole series of miracles and expertise."