Life jacket drive in full swing

Duane Hicks

OPP Sgt. Marty Singleton is raising funds and taking donations in the hopes of getting 1,000 life preservers to help halt drownings in the region’s First Nation communities.
Sgt. Singleton has undertaken the campaign in honour of the late Clayton (Beef) Windigo Jr. and OPP Cst. Bob Mainville, both of whom died in water-related accidents on the same week in the summer of 2010.
“The events that happened that week I’ll never forget,” said Sgt. Singleton, who hails from the Eagle Lake First Nation near Dryden.
“It’s affected me professionally as well as personally,” he noted.
Windigo, 20, of Nigigoonsiminikaaning First Nation, died in an accident on June 27, 2010.
Sgt. Singleton remembers working that day and getting word of the tragic news.
“You had a young person who was a potential leader in their community and the whole world ahead of him,” he noted.
“Being young and fearless, people do challenging things, daring things,” added Sgt. Singleton.
“He jumped off the bridge at Bear Pass and never came up.”
Sgt. Singleton remembered how devastated his friend and colleague, Mainville, was.
“Bob helped coach him in hockey. Bob was very much connected with the family, too,” he recalled.
Then Mainville, 43, drowned in a boating accident on Canada Day.
“I was there not only to help the Windigo family during their grieving process, and Bob was doing the same thing, I was there for Bob’s family, too, during the whole process as we did our best to find him,” Sgt. Singleton said.
“It’s something for me, career-wise, that was very challenging,” he added.
“It’s something I carried with me for a very long time.”
Then last fall, Sgt. Singleton met with Mainville’s mother, Joan, at a Treaty #3 conference in Seine River, where they talked about her son and how they both missed him.
They also wanted to do something to help prevent future water-related fatalities.
“I wish I could have done something but you can’t change the past,” Sgt. Singleton said.
“But maybe you can do something pro-actively to prevent families from going through the same situation in the future,” he reasoned.
“That’s what I’m trying to achieve with this.
“The sad part of it all is I have been, unfortunately, at a number of other drownings across the region as our underwater recovery unit goes and helps recover individuals who have drowned in boating mishaps,” he added.
Sgt. Singleton said wearing a life preserver must become second-nature to boaters.
Years ago, many people never wore seatbelts but now young people don’t think twice about jumping in a vehicle without automatically buckling up.
“It’s the same way I am looking at this—the raising awareness of making sure you have a life jacket on,” he remarked.
“In a split-second, you just never know what could happen.”
Sgt. Singleton officially started his campaign about six weeks ago at an Aboriginal Policing Bureau workshop, where asked his colleagues for support.
It’s snowballed from there.
“I’m very fortunate I have some great colleagues behind me, holding me up in a sense, in our training unit down in Orillia and some awesome people here in the northwest who are helping me get some awareness with this campaign,” he said.
He and several other officers from the Aboriginal Policing Bureau also will taking part in the Manitoba Marathon on June 21 to raise awareness of his campaign.
The public can support Sgt. Singleton’s campaign by buying life jackets and bringing them to any OPP detachment in the region.
People also can donate money directly to the “Remember Your Lifejacket Fund” at TD Bank Account No. 6499635, Branch #05962.