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Body of teen lost through ice of Lake Winnipesaukee recovered, bringing Saturday death toll to 3

New Hampshire Union Leader / Union Leader Correspondent

February 12. 2017 2:07PM
A snowmobiler attends the Meredith Rotary Club Ice Fishing Derby on Saturday. (Dan Seufert/Sunday News Correspondent)

A New York teenager participating in the Meredith fishing derby as well as a Moultonborough man celebrating his 62nd birthday were among three people who died Saturday in snowmobile mishaps on Lake Winnipesaukee.

“None of us can remember another single day when we had this number of fatalities on Lake Winnipesaukee or any lake for that matter,” said Col. Kevin Jordan, a 25-year Fish and Game veteran.

“I’m fearful it’s going to happen again today,” Jordan said Sunday.

Authorities around 9:30 a.m. Sunday recovered the body of Arthur Remy, 15, of Mamaroneck, N.Y., from the lake at a depth of 73 feet, according to Jordan.

Remy and his father, Arnaud Remy, 48, were snowmobiling on separate machines when they hit thin ice, broke through it and fell into the water in Alton on Saturday afternoon. The elder Remy was rescued, treated at the hospital and later released, authorities said.

The father and son were participants of the The Great Meredith Rotary Ice Fishing Derby and decided to go for a snowmobile ride, Jordan said.

The deaths won’t prompt changes at the derby, according to this year’s derby chairman.

“It’s tragic,” Tim Bergquist said. “But people need to follow the state’s guidelines and check the ice everywhere they go.”

The derby, now in its 38th year, always tells ice users, especially snowmobilers, to be careful on the ice.

“We specifically tell people to follow the state rules, to check the ice everywhere they go,” Bergquist said. “We have it in our pamphlets; it’s in the state publications. We tell people every year. As many times as you try to tell people, they keep on doing it.”

Two of the three snowmobiler deaths occurred in Moultonborough on Saturday morning.

Killed were Moultonborough resident Mark O’Connell, who turned 62 years old Saturday, and David Crosier, 67, of Westborough, Mass.

Another snowmobiler, Steven Weiss, 65, also of Westborough, was able to operate his snowmobile and made it to shore on Long Island. He is expected to survive, Jordan said.

“We had the perfect storm,” Jordan said. Cold weather set up light ice followed by snowfall on top, giving riders the “false impression” there was sufficient ice thickness and there wasn’t, he said.

In the Moultonborough incident, three snowmobilers in separate machines ran off the ice shelf into open water between Long Island and Sandy Island near the Moultonborough-Gilford line, Jordan said.

O’Connell remained in the water keeping afloat on ice debris. He was unresponsive when picked up by rescuers and was pronounced dead at a hospital, authorities said.

Crosier’s body was recovered in 21 feet of water using about $60,000 worth of equipment purchased through a Department of Homeland Security grant: an underwater camera, side-scan sonar and an underwater arm.

“Their plan to was to make a loop around Long Island and head toward Meredith Bay to look at the leader board for the fishing derby,” Jordan said of the trio.

In the Alton accident, initial reports said four snow machines went into the water but authorities later confirmed only two machines were involved, he said.

“They were out on thin ice and broke through it,” Jordan said.

Air boats from Fish and Game, Tuftonboro fire and West Ossipee fire departments helped in the rescue efforts.

“Lake Winnipesaukee is one of the most unpredictable lakes in the state” when it comes to ice thickness, Jordan said.

He said the depths, current and shoreline affect how quickly the water freezes.

Snowmobilers parked in large numbers on the ice in front of the fishing derby’s headquarters at the edge of Meredith Bay on Sunday. Many riders stopped to register their fish for derby prizes.

Others, including Leslie, Bob and Rob Fraser, a family from North Kingstown, R.I., were curious onlookers. The Frasers, who have a home on the lake in Gilford, came over the ice to Meredith after seeing a road of snowmobile tracks in the Weirs Beach area of the lake.

They had heard about the snowmobiler deaths, but were still eager to drive on the ice in the safe areas of the lake. The center part of Winnipesaukee, known as “The Broads,” has been mostly open water in recent days, but it’s where two of the deaths occurred in Moultonborough.

“We ride a lot on the lake, but we never ride near the center,” Leslie Fraser said. “You need to always think carefully about where you’re going on the ice. We’re very careful.”

“We came here from the Weirs because we saw a lot of tracks,” she said. “You don’t make your own tracks. If you don’t see a lot of tracks, you don’t go.”

Full text of earlier article continues below.

2 snowmobilers dead, 2 saved, 1 missing after going through ice on Lake Winnipesaukee

Union Leader Staff / Sunday News Correspondent

MOULTONBOROUGH — Two are dead, one is missing and two are recovering Saturday after separate incidents of snowmobiles crashing through the ice on Lake Winnipesaukee in Moultonborough and Alton.

Fish and Game Col. Kevin Jordan said dive teams will return to the lake at first light Sunday to resume the search for a young rider who is missing in Alton.

“This is the kind of day you never want to see happen; it’s horrible and it’s so tragic,” Jordan said.

The first tragedy happened just after noon when three snowmobiles went through the ice in the area of Long Island. It happened about 300 yards off shore and in about 40-to-50 feet of water, Jordan said.

One snowmobiler managed to get out right away and was taken to Lakes Region General Hospital, and is expected to survive.

First responders managed to pull another rider from the freezing water and did CPR to try to resuscitate him, but he was later pronounced dead at Lakes Region, Jordan said.

Rescuers searched for a third person after they found snowmachine tracks leading into the open water and a helmet floating nearby. Jordan said rescuers used a special camera and side-scan sonar to locate the man’s body and managed to pull it from the water around 8:30 p.m.

The Alton accident happened around 4 p.m. when two snow machines ridden by a man and his son broke through thin ice into the water right off Rattlesnake Island in the area of the lake known as “The Broads,” according to Jordan.

The father was rescued and is recovering in the Laconia hospital, but his son, believed to be a teenager, is still missing.

Jordan said teams will return to the scene at first light and use the camera to try to locate the boy’s body. If they do, divers will risk a quick dive to recover his body, he said.

Water depths there can be up to as much as 150 feet, Jordan said.

Far away from this tragic scene, Fish and Game officials confirmed Saturday there were six other snowmobile accidents that took place literally from one end of the state to the other. There were serious but not life-threatening injuries at three of the scenes and at a fourth, a Connecticut woman leapt from her machine in Stratford before it burst into flames (see related story).

On Lake Winnipesaukee, Fish and Game officials said they did not know whether these snowmobile operators were taking part in the Meredith Rotary Club Ice Fishing Derby or were just recreational riders.

And Jordan said he doesn’t yet know whether they were local riders or visitors from out of state.

But he said the conditions on Lake Winnipesaukee are variable and dangerous.

“Even a thin coating of snow can fool a lot of people into thinking the ice is safe when it isn’t,” Jordan said.

“You go from 12 inches of thick ice to open water.”

And Jordan said the overnight dusting of snow proved treacherous. “We really had the perfect storm of conditions. There was a ton of volume on the lake for the derby and a cover of snow that made people think the ice was thick and safe underneath when in places, it wasn’t.”

Gov. Chris Sununu expressed sympathy for those lost.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families during this difficult time,” Sununu added.

“While the heavy snow from our recent winter storm provides for optimum conditions for winter sports like snowmobiling, they also create hazards and we must be cautious,” Sununu said.

“Today’s tragic accidents at Lake Winnipesaukee remind us that even in the best of winters our lakes can be highly unpredictable.

The ice fishing derby attracts hundreds to the region each year for the tournament.

Moultonborough Deputy Fire Chief Rick Buckler said snowmobilers on the big lake should know enough to be careful.

“That lake is not safe, no matter what anyone says,” Buckler said. “It’s fine for pond hockey, it’s fine for a fishing derby, but it’s not safe for travel.”

Four days ago, Fish and Game Conservation Officer Ron Arsenault had checked with “numerous successful fishermen” and reported on ice conditions on social media.

“While fishing is great in the Lakes Region, the ice is not,” Arsenault posted on the Fish and Game Law Enforcement Division’s Facebook page.

Arsenault’s tips included that one never assume the ice is safe, to check thickness often and that if ice is “thick in one spot it doesn’t mean it is thick in another.”

Shawne K. Wickham contributed to this report.

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