North American Ice Fatalities-March and April 2013

This is the fifth of five pages on 2013  ice season fatalities.  See the first page for an explanation of this report and the main things learned from all this misfortune.



March 2, 2013-Newport Center, VT:  A man (age 53) was pulling shanties off lake Memphremagog with a tractor for friends and paying customers as he has done for many years.  He was apparently aware of a folded pressure ridge with snow on it that terminated half a mile off shore.  There were tracks that went around the end of the ridge before turning toward shore.   His last trip was to get one of his own shanties.  It is though that,  in the late day darkness, he lost his route and he broke through the ridge which was not easy to to see even in daylight.  As the tractor sank, the shanty was pulled into the hole.

Click here for a more detailed review of the accident and the ice.



March2, 2013, Milton, WI:  At around 1:20 AM a man came into a tavern to report that his snowmobile had run into open water on Lake Koshkonong.  He had been able to walk to shore but his riding partner (age 47) was missing.  The missing man was located a couple hours later 300-400 yards off shore.

Contributing factors and comments:

  • The surviving rider said they had become disoriented by the darkness and fog.
  • Darkness makes it hard to spot many types of problem areas.
  • A flotation snowmobile suit or a life jacket and ice claws would have probably changed the outcome
  • With three significant January thaws and two in February, this was not a great ice year.  The three day storm just before the accident brought steady slightly above freezing temps and a fair amount of wind.   It might have contributed to the ice hazard where the riders broke through.
  • It was reported that alcohol was not a factor.


Rainbow Falls Reservoir

March 4, 2013-Parishville NY:  At about 8:00PM the leaders of a group of four snowmobilers became disoriented and drove into open water.  They were ages 87 and 78. From the newspaper accounts it sounded like there were some known persistent  thin/open areas on the lake that the leaders were trying to avoid...not so easy in the dark. The other two riders avoided the open water.  One of the other riders drove to a cabin on shore, asked them to call 911 and borrowed a canoe.  They attempted to rescue the two men in the water.  One of the people attempting the rescue also fell in.  The local Rescue crew pulled the three men out.  The two trip leaders did not survive.

Contributing factors and comments:

  • Flotation snowmobile suits or life jackets may have saved the day.
  • Daylight might have as well
  •  There was a week long period with an average temperature of 34 degrees that ended  four days before the accident.   The average from Feb 11 to March 4 was 27˚in 2013.  33˚ is the long term average temperature for March 4.

  • Stream flows into the reservoir were typical hydro flows with a daily range from about 800 to 3200 cfs with a long term average. of 1600 cfs.  Whatever effect this had was probably typical of past years. 


March 6, 2013-Pymatuming Twp, PA:  A 56 year old woman fell though well thawed ice on Shenango River Reservoir when trying to rescue her two dogs.  The ice was reported to be 2" thick.   Her body was recovered after her vehicle was spotted  the next morning.

Contributing factors and comments:

  • The victim apparently succumbed to the strong emotional impulse to try to save her dogs after they had fallen in.  This is rarely successful if the water is more than a few feet deep and often results in the death of the pet owner.  The right thing to do is CAll 911.   Most rescue crews in the North American Ice Belt are equipped for cold water rescue and they would much rather rescue a dog than recover a pet owner.
  • In this unpopulated location the woman's calls for help were not heard by anyone who could have made a 911 call.
  • The temperatures were around 40 degrees for 24 hours before the accident.  The ice in the KDKA article picture looks like thawed snow ice which can weaken quickly in thaw conditions.  No matter what the state of thaw of the ice, any ice that did not hold up a dog has no hope of holding up a person.  Spreading your weight out by lying flat on the ice helps a little but nowhere near enough to make up for the difference in weight between the dog and the owner.

(Graph from

See the Dog Stories for and Dogs and Ice pages


Mullett Lake:  The green marker is the approximate departure location.  The blue marker is a guess on the location of the destination.  The red marker is approximately where the breakthrough occurred.

March 5, 2013-Tuscarora Twp, MI:  A solo snowmobiler (48 years old) went across Mullett Lake around 11:30 PM .  He broke through the ice near the mouth of the the inflowing Indian River.  The victim was described as an experienced snowmobiler who got disoriented.

Contributing factors and comments:

  • Riding of snowmobiles at night is risky, especially if there is weak ice or open water anywhere on the lake.  Riding solo makes it considerably less likely that a 911 call can be made as the phone is probably wet and the victim is focused on getting out and not making a call.
  • Getting disoriented at night is easy to do.  The victim was only roughly 40 degrees off his intended course. 
  • A life-jacket or flotation type snowmobile suit would probably have allowed the victim to get back onto the ice.   Ice claws would have helped as well.
  • The temperatures were cold enough that thawing of the ice sheet out on the lake was probably not an issue however in the shallow water (6 feet) where he broke through, the current from the inflowing Indian River could easily have thinned or put a hole in the ice sheet.  Snow on the ice insulates the ice making it harder for cold spells to thicken it and easier for under water currents to erode it from the bottom. In addition, water coming from lakes upstream is likely to be warmer than a river with no large lakes.  The warmer water and  turbulent current  makes it more likely to erode ice around the inlet.



March 9, 2013-Slippery Rock, PA:  A 73 year old solo fisherman fell through the ice on Lake Arthur.  He was spotted by someone driving by the lake on Rt 422.  The victim was rescued by a park ranger and was thought to be still alive when put in the ambulance but was pronounced dead at the hospital.   In one report  he was estimated to have been in the water for 20 minutes.   The rescue took place around noon.


  • There were a six day thaw in late February and another for the six days leading  up to the accident.
  • Lake  Arthur gets a fair amount of lake effect snow from  Lake Eire.   Often lakes like this are mostly snow ice by the end of the season.   In warm weather snow ice weakens quickly. 
  •  Overnight on Friday the 8th, the surface hardened  in the below freezing temps.  This make it feel hard and strong in the morning although  only a surface layer is hard. The ice would have re-softened during the sunny morning of the 9th. The temperature around the time of the accident was about 46 degrees.   Staying out until the ice is too weak to support resulted in several fatalities during the 2013 ice season.
  • A life-jacket  almost certainly would have changed the outcome by either allowing the victim to self rescue or keeping his head out of the water until Rescue could get to him.  Ice claws might have saved the day, depending on how fit the victim was. 


Lake Wolsey (red marker) on the North Channel of Lake Huron.

March 29, 2013-Lake Wosley Ontario:  Three fishermen were riding on an ATV when it broke through the ice.  Two were able to self rescue but one (age 55) drowned.  This was the second breakthrough in a week on this lake.

Contributing factors and comments: 

  • The day of the accident and the preceding seven days had maximum temps in the mid 30's to the mid 40's.  It was sunny on many of those days. These are good conditions for melting ice in pressure ridges, roofs on gas holes and the like.

  • Life-jackets or flotation type snowmobile suits, would have made it significantly more likely that everyone would have survived.
  • Ice claws and throw ropes would have made getting back on the ice and rescuing others easier and more certain.


March 31, 2013-Whitecourt Alberta:  Two men (age: 40s to 50's) were with a larger group of snowmobilers in the area of River Boat Park (red marker) around 11:30 PM.  One of them tried to skim the open water in the center of the fast flowing Athabasca River.  He sank and was swept downstream to his death.  Two other men tried to rescue him by jumping into the water.  One them was also swept downstream to his death.  The other was able to get back out.    

Contributing factors:

  • Alcohol was thought to be a factor
  • nighttime + a fast and partially ice covered river + river skimming = very high risk.  At this risk level, either you get it right or you die.

Click here for another report with good pictures of the river.


April 9, 2013-Kane, Manitoba: A four year old girl who was playing with brothers and sisters when she wandered off and fell through the ice on a small pond.  She did not survive. 

Contributing factors and comments:

  • High temperatures the previous week had been up to 35 degrees however had been averaging in the low teens at night.  The sun was out for half of those days.  The April sun delivers a lot of energy to the ice and  the water underneath it.  Shallow ponds are especially vulnerable to this.  In cooler temperatures the weakening of the ice was most likely not appreciated by the local adults.

  • It may seem a bit over the top, but kids playing around ice should have life-jackets on, especially when the ice is new or in thaw conditions.   If kids are taught that they should never go near water or ice without a life jacket they would be less likely to go out on ice when they do not have one on.  

More on kids


April 16, 2013-Rycroft Alberta: A four year old boy, who was playing with his 6 year old brother by the Spirit River apparently fell through the ice.  His body was found about a kilometer downstream. 

Contributing factors and comments:

  • The day time temperatures and strong sun probably had river flows up.  This would have also thinned, thawed (weakened) and put holes the ice cover on the river.

  • In a fast flowing, ice covered river it is hard to know if life jackets would have helped beyond the kids having been taught to stay off ice without them. 


More on kids



Coastal Alaska in the general vicinity of the accident.

April 16, 2015-Quinkagak AK: A 52 year old man died after his snow machine broke through the ice on Uyaq Slough (about 3 feet deep where he broke through).  He apparently got wet in the break through and succumbed to the elements after walking about 500 ft from his  machine. 



Holding pond in Maple Grove

April 26, 2013-Maple Grove MN: A 20 year old man took an evening stroll on an ice covered pond which ended with his falling through.  He was recovered from the pond an hour later and could not be resuscitated.  

Contributing factors and comments:

  • It got to 73˚ the day of the accident and had not been below freezing for a week.

Graph from

  • Impulse, to whatever extent it was involved here, occasionally gets many of us into dangerous situations