Some West Islanders were woken up early Sunday morning by bright lights and loud noises emanating from the night sky.
Much debate was sparked on social media about what they were, with some even guessing that they were UFOs.
It turns out the Royal Canadian Air Force was responsible, and the bright lights were part of a dramatic rescue operation near Oka Beach.
“It’s pretty impressive, I’ve never seen that,” said Antonietta Lamorte, a Vaudreuil resident who said she started watching the lights from her bedroom window at 11 p.m. on Saturday night.
Living on Lac-des-Deux Montagnes for the past twenty years, she said she has regularly seen helicopters and rescue operations. What she saw in the sky late Saturday, however, mesmerized her for hours.
“It was these big orange balls and they would just go across the sky, right into the lake and it would light up the whole lake,” she recounted.
In the morning, she joined social media discussions about what the strange lights could be.
“People were saying they saw these flares, some even said it was UFOs. I knew it wasn’t a UFO,” she said.
It turns out the lights were parachute flares deployed by a Royal Canadian Air Force CC-130 Hercules aircraft.
“At approximately 9:30 PM Eastern time last night, the Maritime Rescue Sub-Centre in Quebec received a call for a person or possible person in the water near Oka Beach,” explained Major Trevor Reid, a spokesperson for the Royal Canadian Air Force’s Joint Rescue Coordination Centre in Trenton, Ontario.
According to Sgt. Louis-Philippe Bibeau of the Sûreté du Québec, a 51-year-old man had gone missing while in the water near Oka Beach. The police called on the armed forces for help.
“A 424 Transport and Rescue Squadron CH-146 Griffon helicopter, as well as a CC-130 Hercules aircraft, were dispatched to the area,” Reid explained.
He said the Coast Guard were first on the scene, but the Royal Canadian Air Force Base in Trenton quickly sent the massive plane to light up the area, and the helicopter to search the water.
“Certainly people around Montreal would have seen some of these parachute flares descending slowly over the area,” he said.
“They had these really big searchlights,” Lamorte recounted. “Man, it lit up my room.”
Reid said the missing man was located in a swampy area near Oka Beach. The helicopter got in place, and rescuers were lowered down using a motorized winch.
“Once the aircraft got overhead, the search and rescue technicians were hoisted into the area. They were able to help stabilize the patient. That patient was put into a rescue litter and hoisted into the helicopter,” Reid said.
Lamorte and her husband were relieved to hear the man was saved after a few hours.
“Thank God,” she said.
The man was flown to Trudeau Airport and then taken to hospital by Urgences Santé.