CHESTERMERE – When a search and rescue effort turned into a victim recovery situation last month on Chestermere Lake, the local RCMP were left scrambling to find a way to conduct operations in the right manner.
Luckily, local resident John Kittler approached them and offered them the use of his lakefront property on East Chestermere Drive.
It was from there that the RCMP were able to launch boats, store equipment, and generally conduct their operations out of the public eye while searching for Richis Bondo Katumbay of Calgary, who drowned on Aug. 6.
Staff Sgt. Glenn Henry said that he knew back in August that they would have to find some way to officially honor Kittler, so last week at the regular meeting of council, he was presented with an RCMP plaque. On it was an engraved message of thanks for all of his help during the recovery efforts.
“He was doing backflips to help us at every turn, so we wanted to make sure that we thanked him for his community involvement,” Henry said. “This isn’t something we do very often, so we wanted to make sure it was for something significant, and this definitely was.”
Henry said that Kittler’s actions clearly helped the RCMP in every way throughout the whole recovery effort.
“Without him, our jobs would have been so much more difficult, and the community would have been much more affected,” he said. “He simply walked up to us, asked us how things were going, and offered that we could use his place if needed.
”He was very timely, very respectful and very helpful.”
Henry said that they were given use of Kittler’s dock to secure their boats, and that his yard served as their base of operation. Kittler’s house was used as a place where RCMP members could take breaks, get out of the elements and change in and out of their gear.
“Obviously it wasn’t open to the public, so there was very little interference,” Henry said. “It allowed us to keep going with minimal distraction and get the job done.
“We also had the use of his boat house where we could bring the body in when it was recovered, so that allowed us to keep things out of the public view and treat the body with respect,” he said. “Overall it allowed us to be more professional, and we thank him for that.”
In addition, Kittler’s boat was used as an extra safety boat to help keep the dive team safe, to shuttle supplies back and forth, and to search the shoreline.
“Having that extra boat helped us with the big picture, not just in the dive area,” Henry said.
Of presenting Kittler with the plaque, Henry said that it was the right thing to do, and that he thinks everyone felt good about it.
“John is, and should be, very proud of his contributions to us. I think we’ve really identified one of the better citizens in the community,” he said. “His actions are a reflection of the community, and I think the everyone should be proud to have a local individual that will stand up and help when needed.
“To put it in perspective, it was a terrible tragedy, but it brought out a good story of how people can work together to overcome.”
Henry noted that he hasn’t lose sight of the fact that the Town of Chestermere also stepped up to help the RCMP in the recovery process.
“We had great cooperation with the Town, with the mayor and with public works,” he said. “They helped us out with the barge, with buoys, anything we needed.
“The mayor was very active in keeping in contact with us on a regular basis and really took a major leadership role.”
Henry said, “We can’t give a plaque to the town or local government but they really helped us out as well.
“A lot of times we say that’s just their job and that’s what they do, but it’s more than that in many ways.”