Kevin James Schell

Three men in their 20s were on a recreational pier in Bracebridge, Ontario, that extended over the Muskoka River on August 24, 2020, when one of them accidentally entered the water. The man was a poor swimmer as he struggled to stay afloat in 30 feet of water, with dangerous, unpredictable currents caused by a waterfall and a man-made dam upriver from the pier. Several onlookers witnessed the man struggling, including corrections officer Kevin James Schell, 51, of Bracebridge, who was on a nearby bench with his adult daughter. One of the bystanders entered the water and swam to the man, and attempted to calm him, but he continued to panic. She attempted to calm him once more before she disengaged and exited the water in search of a flotation device. During that time, Schell and his daughter searched for the life preserver from a nearby life preserver rack, but it could not be found. Schell told his daughter to call 911 before he ran 60 feet to the end of the pier and entered the water. He swam about 10 feet to the man and was reportedly within an arm’s length of him. Two more bystanders who also witnessed the incident entered the water immediately after Schell and swam to the man. At some point, Schell submerged. The two bystanders guided the man to a nearby buoy before they placed a life jacket on him and swam him back to the pier and first-responders. The man had inhaled water, but he recovered. Divers searched for more than six hours before they located Schell’s body some 30 feet south of where he was last seen. He had drowned.