Fatalities in February 2015 on North American Ice


February 1, 2015 Southwick MA: A male snowmobile rider attempted to skim the water in a concrete culvert that connected South Pond and Middle Pond. He hit the culvert wall and was ejected. It was about 8:30 PM

 February 1, 2015 Lincoln MN:  Two fishermen in a vehicle (car?) broke through the ice on Lake Brenton near the Norwegian Creek Campground. It took a week to find the first victim under the ice and another week for the second. They were 29 and 54.

Average temperatures mostly hovered a little below freezing for two weeks prior to the accident. It is hard to say if this had any affect. A pressure ridge is a likely candidate for the breakthrough. Snow covered folded ridges are particularly hard to see.


February 5, 2015 Centerville MT: Three young boys fell through the ice on a sewage lagoon. Two of them died (4 and 5 years old). The third (age 5) pulled himself out of the water and survived. A forth boy saw the accident and went for help. The pond was fenced in and posted with No Trespassing signs.


February 9, 2015 Hanover Ont A 30 year old fire fighter was taking a swift water and ice rescue class on the Saugeen River. Part of the class involved going under the ice. The victim became trapped and it took about 15 minutes to free him. He did not survive. There was a similar training fatality by the same training company and same trainer in 2010.


February 9, 2015 Lenawee County MI: A 34 year old snowmobile rider hit a pickup truck that was parked on the ice on Devil's Lake during the annual Tip Up Festival. Officials mentioned speed and over driving the headlight as factors in the incident. It occurred around 10:30 PM.


February 10, 2015 Johnson County WY: A father, and his 4 year old daughter attempted to walk across the Powder River on the ice at about 6:30 PM. It is a free running river. The ice broke and both fell in. Rescue was called. They were able to get the man out of the river but were not able to find the girl. The man was treated for hypothermia. The girl's body was found in early November. Pictures of the scene the next day show the river ice completely broken up (at least where the picture was taken).  There had been a lot of warm weather in the half month before the accident with several reaching 60 degrees.


February 15, 2015 Ft Covington, NY: Two snowmobilers broke through the ice on the Salmon River. The first victim was found that day and the second 8 days later. They were age 26 and about 35. It does not look like warm temperatures played a role in this accident.

Rivers are more complicated than lakes


February 16, 2015 Harrison ME: A 49 year old man was kite sailing on Crystal Lake. He was overpowered by his kite and was dragged ashore where he hit a shed. His wife called 911. The resulting injuries lead to his death at the hospital.

There were wind gusts as high as 24 mph from the northwest on the 16th. Wind from that direction tends to be more 'up and down' than is typically found from south winds. Figuring out how big a kite to use is tricky. If you set up during a prolonged light wind period you might choose a bigger kite than you can handle if a big gust comes through.


February 18, 2015 Callands PA: A 52 year old woman spotted a duck stuck on something on an ice covered pond on her property. She went out on the ice in an attempt to free the duck. She broke through and drowned. Her husband attempted rescue her and was hospitalized. Warm temperatures do not appear to have been a factor.

This is another example of an impulsive and poorly conceived decision to attempt save an animal. The attempt is unlikely to succeed. It often results in the death of the rescuer and leaves their family shattered. Anyone who thinks they might do something similarly foolish should think it through well ahead of time when they have the best chance of being logical. They should take full consideration of the very real possibility that they will leave hind devastated family and friends. If you want to rescue an animal on the ice call 911 and let the professionals handle it. They will be happy to do so.


February 21 Mendora IN: A 39 year old fisherman was fishing with a friend on Black Swan Lake. He fell through. His friend fell through as well (trying to rescue the 39 yr old??). He was able to to get back on the ice but was not able to get the 39 year old out. He drove to shore and called 911. Officers responded quickly and tried to rescue the victim with a throw rope but was unsuccessful. The victim sank and was found later with a remote controlled (underwater) vehicle.

It seems likely that the victim was in or near swimming incapacitation by the time the officer was trying to use his throw rope. If the fishermen had life jackets, ice claws and a throw rope each it is very likely the outcome would have been different.

The weather at the time was cold (just touching 30 on the 21st and below 0 the previous day). The last really warm weather was about two weeks before the accident. This suggests there may have been thin ice for some other reason (snow covered folded ridge, gas or reef holes, etc).


February 21, 2015 Lyndonville VT: A 22 year old man and local college student chose to walk out onto the ice on the Passumpsic River in Layndonville. He apparently broke through and died. He was last seen at about 4 PM on Thursday and reported missing on Friday. His jacket was found in the snow near the river.

It is odd that the victim chose to walk here. The snow on the land was deep, the river is narrow, free running and has enough flow to make a fair number of thin areas when I visited the scene a couple days later.

The weather was cold for all of February.


February 24, 2015 Trigg County KY: A 61 year old man walked from his house onto the ice on Lake Barkley. He was pulling a small boat. He broke through and was not able to get out or get the attention of anyone on shore.

Lake Barkley is a dammed lake on the Cumberland River in western Kentucky. The accident took place quite near where the river comes into the lake. The headwaters of the Cumberland are in the mountains of eastern Tennessee. There was almost 3” of rain on the 21st and half an inch five days before that. The next dam is about 70 miles upstream leaving a significant amount of unregulated watershed. The heavy rain probably increased river flows. If that water arrived at Lake Barkley even a little above freezing it is likely to significantly and variably erode the ice near the inlet.

Temperatures were cold on the 23rd and 24th and generally below freezing for the 10 days before the accident with a couple of days where it got into the 40's. It is hard to say what effect this had other than giving the victim confidence. The sun is pretty strong by late February in Kentucky and that is pretty hard on the ice even at temperatures below freezing.

If the victim had taken standard precautions for being on the ice he would have most likely survived (claws, buddy, spud, flotation, throw ropes) .


February 28, 2015 Nevada MO: An 8 year old boy fell though the ice on a pond near his home. He was with two friends who also broke through. One of the other boys was able to self rescue. The other was rescued by neighbors and Rescue personnel. The victim was in the water for about 90 minutes. He had submerged at some point.

The temperature in Emporia KS hit 56 with full on the 25th with winds that average 14 mph and maxed at 49 mph. That would have melted a lot of ice on the top of the ice sheet. Temperatures were cold on the 26th, 27th and 28th it was clear on the 26th and light snow fell on the 27th and 28th. Speculatively, If the snow stayed on the ice it would have insulated the ice sheet although it was windy enough that it probably blew off. Overall it looks like the ice sheet may have have been thin, either everywhere or just some places. It was cold enough to refreeze partially thawed ice.