published: 9 March 2012
by: Seamus O’Regan
A large rescue effort was launched Friday afternoon in Canada to save a group of 27 ice fishermen who were marooned on a disintegrating ice floe on Ontario’s Lake Simcoe.
The group, which included a 12-year-old boy, had been fishing on a chunk of ice when it broke away from the shore around noon local time.
The ice floe was originally about two kilometres long, but strong winds began to break it up as it drifted away from shore.
“Some guys were coming in on a snowmobile, and they started yelling at us, ‘The ice broke off, the ice broke off!’ We look out, and the ice is moving away, and there’s a bunch of guys on the ice,” said witness Christain Lattman.
Members of the local Oro-Medonte fire department arrived to help and two ambulances were also sent to the area. An Ontario Provincial Police helicopter also arrived, as did a rescue team from nearby Trenton.
Several boats belonging to local fire departments also went out to the water to reach the men.
One of the fishermen fell into the icy waters of Lake Simcoe, but thanks to the quick work of rescue crews, he was airlifted to a nearby hospital.
Survivor Al Bartlett said that the injured man, his brother, attempted to jump to safety on an ATV, but fell short.
“My brother tried to jump over the crack before it got too wide, and he went in,” he said.
He was injured in the botched jump, but the others were able to bring him back to relative safety.
“He probably had a minute to live and then he grabbed my gaffe hook, and swam over …” said Rick Cryderman, another rescued fisherman.
Two volunteer firefighters also fell in the water but managed to get to safety.
Windy conditions and blowing snow hampered the search effort, but the other fishermen were not seriously injured.
The group had believed that the ice was sturdy enough for fishing, officials said.
But on Wednesday and Thursday in nearby Orillia, highs reached 12.6 and 13.2 degrees Celsius, respectively.
Police say with changing spring weather conditions, waterways should be seen as a potential hazard.