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Wednesday, November 30, 2022
Man living on boat in Niagara River brought to shore, hospital

A man who has been living on his boat in the Niagara River for several weeks has been brought back to land again, this time by Niagara Regional Police.

The man, whom a sailing club member identified as being named “Justin,” is now in a St. Catharines hospital “getting the help he needs,” said Jamie Day, newly appointed commodore of the NOTL Sailing Club. Day had been helping to monitor Justin's situation while he was living on the boat.

The man apparently has no sailing experience and had been living on the boat for weeks without an engine or heat.

Day said on Monday he called the police as the ice in the Niagara River and on Lake Ontario was getting worse and the boat had drifted out farther into the lake.

Police brought the man in at about 9 p.m. to the sailing club, where a group of members was waiting.

The members, when approached by a reporter, said the man suffers from mental health issues and that it's a “sad situation” but refused to talk more about it.

Another sailing club member reached Tuesday agreed to talk on condition their name would not be published.

They said the man had been drying out and burning his own feces to try to stay warm on the boat.

The man had previously been brought to shore to dock at Navy Hall and although people involved in helping Justin said they'd been given permission for him to stay, Niagara Parks asked him to leave.

From there, he anchored farther out in the Niagara River, closer to Ball's Beach.

On Monday, The Lake Report received multiple emails and calls from people concerned about the man's safety.

“The hermit that is living in his sailboat on the Niagara River somehow lost his mooring to Navy Hall and drifted down to Ball's Beach,” said an email from dock area resident Ron Simkus, who publishes a weekly report on lake water levels.

Patricia Ridesic, a NOTL resident who takes daily trips to Navy Hall and has been following the situation, called Monday to say it was time police did something about it.

“When he was at the Navy Hall he should have been removed from the boat … because he's a danger to himself and if anybody has to rescue him,” Ridesic said.

She said she heard someone was “monitoring” the situation, but questions how that could be done from shore.

“I don't know what monitoring actually means,” she said.

She also questioned why no family members have tried to help him.

“Obviously the guy can't make the right decisions for himself,” she said. “And there must be a family somewhere.”

On Tuesday she called again and was relieved the man had been brought in by police.

She was concerned police had been “dodging their duties” by not bringing him in sooner.

“They should be trying to solve this the best they can. I mean, the guy has family, surely. Those doctors who must know about him. They have to try a bit harder.”

Niagara Regional Police spokesperson Const. Jesse Vujasic said the man was “apprehended for his safety under the Ontario Mental Health Act and taken to a local hospital for assessment and care by medical personnel.”

“He was not arrested.”

Citing privacy concerns, police refused further comment.