January 03. 2013 9:10PM

Rindge search for snowmobile rider called off, to be resumed Friday

Union Leader Correspondent

RINDGE -- The search for a missing snowmobile rider was called off at 6:30 p.m. Thursday night when officials surmised the rider had walked away from the snowmobile found stuck in Emerson Pond just hours earlier.

Rindge and Fish and Game officials plan to resume the search for the rider of the "greenish" Polaris Indy snowmobile Friday morning, Fire Chief Rickard Donovan at the fire station Thursday night.

But it is not believed the rider was in the water, he said. For that reason, Fish and Game decided against deploying drivers into the freezing pond Thursday night, he said.

"We'd like to know, not so much what happened, but make sure that the operator is safe," Donovan said. "Did they actually get out of the lake, which we believe they did."

Donovan said he was called around 4:10 p.m. on Thursday by Fish and Game officials, who had been searching the pond for about 45 minutes at that point.

The Fish and Game officials had spotted a set of skis from a snowmobile sticking out of the ice on Emerson Pond with no visible tracks leading to or from the area, Donovan said.

The Rindge Fire Department immediately notified southwestern New Hampshire mutual aid to dispatch Rindge Fire and Rescue to meet with Fish and Game and assist in the investigation.

Along with Rindge, Jaffrey Fire and Rescue, Jaffrey-Rindge Memorial Ambulance and the Swanzey, new Ipswich and Winchendon, Mass., dive teams responded.

The Winchester Fire Department brought its hovercraft, which was used in the search over the pond.

Officials also went door-to-door in the Red Gate Lane and Jay Drive neighborhoods which are on opposite sides of the pond.

Donovan said all snowmobiles and snowmobile riders living in those neighborhoods were accounted for. Because there are no reports of missing people or snowmobiles the officials decided to resume the search in the morning.

After chipping away at the snowmobile the registration, make and model of the submerged machine was identified. Fish and Game are still working to get the registration records to determine the owner, Donovan said.

During the search, frozen slushy footsteps were found leading away from the snowmobile, leading the rescue workers to deduce the snowmobile's rider walked away from it after it began to sink into the water.

Donovan said it appears the snowmobile began to sink sometime Thursday morning or the day before that, which coincides with reports from neighbors who said they heard or saw a snowmobile at those days.

Anyone with information about the incident is asked to call Rindge Police or NH Fish and Game.