French visitors win award for recovering sunken canoe items

canoe bravery french noirmoutier

With their classmates in attendance, Noirmoutrin students Océan Guillet, center, and Laura Jolly receive medals for bravery from Noirmoutier Sister City Committee President René Relandeau. The girls had rescued equipment from a sunken canoe during their visit to Crestview in October and November 2012.

Special to the News Bulletin
Published: Monday, January 21, 2013 at 10:07 AM.

Two students from Crestview’s French sister city have earned awards for bravery for their swift action following the sinking of two American friends’ canoe in Blackwater River during their visit to Crestview.

Océane Guillet, who was hosted by Crestview High School student Emily Wedige and her family, and Laura Jolly, whose hosts were Samantha Lush and her family, were recognized during a Twelfth Night reunion party for most of the 36-member contingent that visited Crestview in October and November 2012.

“What happened was two of my students managed to sink their canoe,” Crestview High French teacher Chris Lanoue explained. “Paddy (De Broucker, one of the French escorts) and I were in a canoe and we came upon them. They were on the edge of the river. It was a place where the ground slopes into the water pretty sharply.

“They were standing there in the water, in their canoe, but you couldn’t see their canoe. The water was waist deep. I’ve never heard of sinking a canoe.”

Lanoue said Océane and Laura paddled onto the scene shortly after the mishap. While Océane steadied their canoe, Laura jumped into the cold, swift-running river amid logs, branches and other debris to rescue equipment and belongings that floated out of the sunken craft.

“I remember thinking, ‘These girls are going to freeze to death,’” Lanoue said. “But they got the life jacket and the oar and some other stuff. It took some doing because it was tangled in the branches.”

Noirmoutier Sister City Committee President René Relandeau presented Océane and Laura with medals for bravery on behalf of the island community.

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