Every year around this time, Mother Nature plays a cruel trick on unsuspecting fishermen, snowmobilers and other recreationalists who misjudge the thickness of the ice on Maine’s lakes and ponds, strike out, often alone, and plunge into water cold enough to cause hypothermia in minutes.
Some, like 26-year-old Christopher Fisher of Bangor, live to tell about their harrowing ordeals. Around 2:30 p.m. Dec. 9, Mr. Fisher drove his all-terrain vehicle onto the thin ice of Plymouth Pond, reassured by snowmobiles he saw skimming along the ice near the shore.
What happened next endangered not only his own life, but those of game wardens and two other men who came to his aid when he fell through the ice about 200 yards from shore. The two men also fell into the water, but quick thinking on everyone’s part averted certain tragedy.
“There’s a false sense of security that the ice is thick enough, but it’s not,” commented Warden Dave Georgia.
Nearly three weeks after that ordeal, despite frigid cold, the ice on many Maine waterways still isn’t thick enough to hold up under the weight of a vehicle, or even a human body. Former Hancock County Commissioner Vern Crockett, known for his caution in braving the elements, died on Christmas Day when his snowmobile broke through ice on Lower Patten Pond.
Warden Lt. Pat Dorian said the ice only measured a half-inch in places on the pond. Mr. Crockett, whose body was pulled from about 6 feet of water, likely died of hypothermia.
A good man died too young Monday. The licensed Maine guide, educator and conservation activist no doubt had heard the stories of ice tragedies, but like many in Maine, believed the sub-zero temperatures of Christmas Eve and Christmas Day meant thick ice on a favorite pond. Tragically, they didn’t.
The Maine Warden Service each year issues cautions for those going out onto the state’s bodies of water. Everyone should clip and save these tips. They could save your life, and others’ too:
.danger lying underneath.
. Thoroughly test ice before partaking in winter activities.
. Days or even weeks of low temperatures doesn’t mean the ice is thick enough to hold up under weight.