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April 15. 2014 8:43AM

Warning issued to teens taking the ‘Polar Plunge’ challenge

CONCORD - A social media-driven craze daring teens to jump into frigid icy waters across the state has evoked an urgent warning from New Hampshire Fish and Game officials because of the potential danger of death.

Called the "Polar Plunge" dare, young people are jumping, dressed only in summer swimwear and without life vests, into frigid New Hampshire lakes and ponds, as well as into fast-flowing rivers and streams coursing with snow melt. In a news release issued Monday, Fish and Game officials said an insidious aspect of the trend is that participants must dare five other youth to take part, creating a fast-growing phenomenon with enormous potential for tragic outcomes.

Recent information received by the Fish and Game Department indicated that on Monday a large number of North Country youth reportedly made plans to jump into the raging Connecticut River. Right now, the Connecticut River is boiling with fast, high water from the spring snow melt, with chunks of ice and debris coursing past, state officials said.

Members of the state Fish and Game dive team, who are responsible for drowning recovery operations in the state, are very concerned about the unsanctioned Polar Plunge activities taking place.

"We are strongly urging youth not to participate, and we are asking families and community members to stay alert," said Conservation Officer and Fish and Game dive team member Glenn Lucas. "The potential for life-threatening incidents to occur, because of the Polar Plunge trend, is huge."

He noted that even when ice is not visible on top of the water, there can be ice below that can easily cause a slip into dangerous fast-moving water. In one recent incident recorded on Facebook, two New Hampshire teenage girls jumped into Garland Brook in Lancaster, slipped on the ice and were nearly swept into the current without life jackets.

According to the N.H. Marine Patrol, immersion in cold water can quickly render even a good swimmer helpless within minutes. Even short amounts of time exposed to frigid water can exacerbate hypothermia, an abnormally low body temperature often caused by prolonged exposure to cold. A person experiencing hypothermia while in the water is at greater risk of injury or drowning.


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