In a tragic accident, a Maine angler drowned after breaking through the ice on an ATV on Spring River Lake in Hancock County.
The 88-year-old man, identified as Waltham resident Floyd Hardison, had been out ice fishing with his son and grandsons on Friday, February 9.
On their way back to shore, the side-by-side ATV he and one of his grandsons were riding on broke through the ice.
While his grandson, who was driving the vehicle, managed to get onto safe ice, sadly, Hardison was unable to free himself and drowned in the 10-foot-deep water.
According to news outlets, the incident occurred around 6 p.m.
At about 8.25 p.m., Hardison’s body was retrieved by a firefighter of the local fire department.
As a son and father myself, I cannot imagine the pain and sadness his son and grandsons must feel.
Losing a member of your family is always difficult, but doing it in such a fashion must be absolutely devastating and traumatic!
No one should have to go through such a horrible experience, and I want to send my condolences to Mr. Hardinson’s family and friends.
The Latest in a Series of Ice Incidents
Unfortunately, the tragedy on Spring River Lake wasn’t the first serious ice incident in Maine this winter.
On January 26, Carmel town manager Kevin Howell and his young son broke through the ice on Etna Pond (Penobscot County).
While Howell was able to lift his son out of the ice-cold water, sadly, he himself was unable to get out and drowned. Kevin Howell was 51 years old.
On January 27, five people (two adults and three children) broke through through the ice on their side-by-side ATV on Moose Pond (Denmark).
They managed to stand on the roof of the vehicle in the 7 feet-deep water until they were rescued, which was both extremely lucky and smart.
Several other incidents have occurred in New England and the broader Northeastern US over the last few weeks! Please be extremely careful out there!
MDIFW Warns of Changing Ice Conditions
Due to persisting mild weather conditions, the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife has published suggestions, tips, and warnings about current ice conditions in its latest fishing report:
“Accessing lakes and ponds should be avoided unless you can be certain of ice conditions by checking ice thickness. Before stepping out, use a chisel or auger to test ice thickness in several places.
Remember that ice seldom freezes uniformly, and conditions are always changing and can vary from one location to the next.
Ice that forms overflowing water and currents, especially near streams, bridges, and culverts, can be particularly dangerous.
We hope you have a great ice fishing season!
Before you head for a day of fishing, ALWAYS tell someone where you are going and when you will return. Please enjoy the Maine outdoors safely and responsibly!”
General Ice Fishing Safety Tips
Tip #1: Always check ice thickness
The first and most important thing is always to check the thickness of the ice!
Generally speaking, you should stay off ice that’s less than 4 inches thick. PERIOD!
Personally, I prefer 6 inches, just in case However, you must check the ice on your way out constantly.
4 inches of ice can quickly turn into 2 or 1 inch. And boom, you’re going through.
And as this tragic example has shown, never venture onto ice you’re not familiar with! Especially with heavy vehicles.
REÖATED READING: Two Brothers Fall Through the Ice in Upstate New York
Tip #2: Trust your spud bar
A spud bar or ice chisel is probably your most important tool on the ice! It’ll help you check the thickness and compactness of the ice.
Personally, I wouldn’t head out without one. It’s really vital!
A spud bar allows you to test the ice quickly and frequently, saving you time and energy, as you won’t have to drill dozens of holes with your auger.
Tip #3: Always wear ice picks
Never go on the ice without wearing that good old, trusted pair of ice picks around your neck!
These things can end up saving your life!
Without them, you might never be able to pull yourself out of the water and onto the ice.
So please don’t take them off while ice fishing. That’s not the point of bringing them!
There’s also an important psychological aspect to consider here, as ice picks can give you peace of mind by simply wearing them.
Tip #4: Don’t go ice fishing alone
The buddy system can ensure that your friend or friends can help you in case of an emergency or that you can help your friend or friends!
Making your way back onto the ice alone can sometimes be an impossibility. Having someone around who could help you or quickly get help can make all the difference!
Besides, it’s always more fun to go fishing together with your buddies.
Tip #5: Wear a float suit or life jacket
Wearing a float suit or life jacket on the ice can be an excellent idea!
If you’re unsure about your physical abilities or don’t know how you might react if you go through, a float suit or life jacket can make things a lot easier in that ice-cold water.
You still have to drag yourself onto the ice again, but at least you’ll have a little more time, a somewhat clearer head, and, most importantly, you won’t drown!
Tip #6: Bring a throw rope
Another essential thing you should take with you when heading out onto the ice.
A thicker rope can save lives in several ways!
1) Your buddy can throw you that rope and pull you out from a safe distance.
2) You can do the same thing for your buddy.
3) If possible, you can throw it toward your buddy after falling through so that he can pull you out.