Maine man dies while checking thickness of lake ice, wardens say

PLUS: Ice Safety Gear

AP – A man who was checking the thickness of ice on a lake in the Maine wilderness crashed into the icy water and drowned on Friday, game wardens said.

Walter Demmons, 62 of Milford, was drilling holes with a friend to check the ice thickness while preparing to fish in Quakish Lake when they heard the ice crack, wardens said.

Both men ended up in the frigid water, about 75 yards (66 meters) from shore on the lake in T3 Indian Township Purchase, which is about 8 miles (13 kilometers) southwest of Millinocket, wardens said.

The two ice fishermen were communicating with each other as they tried to get back on the ice before Demmons told his friend he wasn’t going to make it and slid under the surface, wardens said.

The friend, who eventually got back onto the ice and dialed 911, was treated for hypothermia while Demmons’ body was recovered an hour later with an ice rescue raft brought to the scene by the Brownville Fire Department, wardens said.

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Game wardens warned people to be especially vigilant about ice thickness, noting that early season ice conditions can be treacherous.


Police officer crawls across frozen lake to rescue two fishermen and a dog

Ice Safety Gear

Minnesota Department of Natural Resources – Every time you go on the ice, be sure to carry the gear that could save your life. Always let someone know where you are going and when you expect to return.

Be prepared for the unexpected; bring the following items every time you are on the ice.

A foam life jacket or flotation suit may be the No. 1 item that will keep you alive if you fall through the ice. Most people who fall through the ice die of drowning – not hypothermia.

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Choose the flotation that is most comfortable for you. Flotation comes in a variety of styles, including insulated coats, pants, and full-body suits, as well as foam life jackets. Inflatable life jackets are not recommended for cold-water activities.

If you prefer a life jacket, always choose a foam life jacket rather than an inflatable life jacket for cold-water activities. Inflatable life jackets may not properly inflate in low temperatures. Also, foam life jackets provide insulating warmth, allowing you more time to climb out of the water.

Your body’s first response to cold water is to gasp and hyperventilate. If you have a life jacket on, it will help keep your head above water and give you the best chance of survival.

After you calm your breathing, you will have about 10 minutes of meaningful movement to climb out of the waterLearn more about the dangers of cold water immersion. Watch the video below to learn how to climb out of the water using ice picks.

Remember to never wear a life jacket or flotation suit while driving inside an enclosed vehicle on the ice. It can make it very difficult to climb out of the vehicle if you break through the ice.

Ice picks are the second most-important item. Pulling yourself out of cold water onto a smooth, wet surface with numb fingers is extremely difficult. A sharp set of ice picks gives you the best chance of pulling yourself out of the water.

two different styles of ice picks

Two different styles of ice picks. The exposed nails (left) can be stuck into the opposite hand
grip for safety when not in use. The style on the right has a retractable plastic sheath hiding
the nail on each hand grip.

After you calm your breathing, you’ll have about 10 minutes to climb out of the water before you lose the feeling and strength needed to pull yourself out. Follow these steps:

  1. Turn in the direction you came from – that is probably the strongest ice.
  2. Dig the points of the picks into the ice. While vigorously kicking your feet, pull yourself onto the surface by sliding forward on the ice.
  3. Roll away from the area of weak ice. Rolling on the ice distributes your weight to help avoid breaking through again.
  4. Get to shelter, heat, warm, dry clothing, and warm, non-alcoholic, and non-caffeinated drinks.

Using ice picks

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