On June 16, 1990, Mr. Abela saved the lives of his son and sister-in-law when their cabin cruiser exploded on the river near Holland Landing, Ontario. As the boat headed slowly towards the channel markers, there was a sudden explosion in the engine compartment, sending the passengers sprawling. Blown backwards into the cabin, Mr. Abela saw the two victims lying on the bottom of the boat, surrounded by fire. He moved quickly through the flames and broken floor-boards, grabbed his son and threw him into the river, then lifted the woman onto the side of the boat and pushed her into the water. Mr. Abela then jumped into the river and swam to assist his son and sister-in-law till help arrived.