Tragedy and Heroism on Humboldt Lake: Community Mourns Loss Two Heroes and a Young Girl in Saskatchewan

Chris Novecosky, left, Joseph Novecosky, centre, and Ava Novecosky died Saturday after falling through the ice on Humboldt Lake in Saskatchewan. (CBC Graphics)

A family in Humboldt Lake faces the heartbreak of losing two men and a young girl after a tragic incident on the ice

In an act of bravery that ended in tragedy, a Saskatchewan family and the broader community of Humboldt are grieving the loss of three loved ones who fell through the ice on Humboldt Lake.

The incident, which occurred approximately 115 kilometers east of Saskatoon, claimed the lives of Chris Novecosky, his nephew Joe, and seven-year-old Ava, daughter of Fred Novecosky, who resides by the lake.

The calamity unfolded when the two young girls, Ava and her five-year-old sister, ventured onto the lake’s ice without adult supervision. “They always knew not to go to the lake without an adult,” Kristen Bilawchuk, wife of the late Chris Novecosky, told CBC News. The reason why the girls went onto the ice remains unknown.

Upon spotting his sisters in danger, their older brother immediately alerted their mother, Heather Novecosky. In a desperate effort to rescue the girls, Heather, along with Chris and Joe, traversed the precarious ice. Their valiant attempt turned fatal when the ice broke beneath them.

Kristen Bilawchuk, left, says she is devasted but ‘grateful and speechless’ for the support the family has received, including GoFundMe campaigns. People have donated tens of thousands of dollars to support the families. (Submitted by Kristen Bilawchuk)

Fred Novecosky managed to save his wife and one daughter with the aid of a kayak and life-jackets. “My husband Fred saved my life and our daughter’s life,” Heather recounted, expressing her profound gratitude for his life-saving actions.

First responders, arriving at the scene around 2:20 p.m. CST, managed to rescue Heather and one daughter, but Ava, Chris, and Joe could not be saved. Greater Saskatoon Catholic Schools mourned the loss, remembering Ava as a cherished student of St. Dominic School.

Chris and Joe are recalled as embodiments of heroism. “This was not out of character at all for them. They’re selfless and good men. Extremely kind, caring and generous,” Kristen said. Their sacrifice is echoed in a GoFundMe campaign description, stating, “Chris died a hero, rescuing others that he loved in a tragic accident.”

Kristen Bilawchuk says her husband Chris, right, and nephew Joe, left, are heroes for sacrificing their lives to save others. (Submitted by Kristen Bilawchuk)

The community, still healing from the Humboldt Broncos crash tragedy in 2018, finds itself banding together in the face of this new sorrow. Humboldt Mayor Michael Behiel confirmed the deep roots the Novecosky family has in the community, and highlighted the collective mourning process.

As preparations for the funerals are underway, with a request for bright colors and stuffed animals for Ava’s service to celebrate her joyous spirit, the family expresses their gratitude for the overwhelming support. “We’re so in awe of the kindness and generosity of people,” Kristen shared.

The tragedy serves as a stark reminder of the dangers of unstable ice conditions. Saskatchewan’s Water Security Agency advises vigilance and cautions against venturing onto ice without confirming its safety, as conditions can vary significantly.