LACONIA — In what Fire Chief Ken Erickson called "an absolutely spectacular job," firefighters rescued a snowmobiler from the waters of Lake Winnisquam on Sunday evening after two machines went through thin ice near the middle of the lake.
Two snowmobilers — Terry Threlfall and Andrew Grant , both of Belmont — drove on to the lake at Ahern Park and traveled south before the ice failed off Shore Drive around 7:30 p.m. Threlfall managed to escape the water and reach the shore where he met residents of 350 Shore Drive, who reported the incident, then returned to the lake to help his companion. When firefighters arrived they could hear the two men calling for help.
Four Laconia firefighters in ice rescue suits and tethered by ropes went on to the ice. They encountered Threlfall and directed him to the operations post some 300 feet from shore where Lt. Jeff Desrosiers was managing the rescue. Firefighters Chris Beadoin and Kevin Pierce could hear but not see Grant, who was in the water shouting. Erickson said that Beaudoin and Pierce broke through thin ice then swam some 200 feet across a stretch open water to reach Grant, who was 1,470 feet from shore. They placed him in a harness, pulled him on to firm ice, put him in a sled and ferried him to land.
Erickson said that Grant had been in the water nearly an hour and keeping himself afloat by clutching his helmet to his torso. He was suffering from hypothermia and while still shaking from cold had stopped shouting and was not coherent when rescued.
Gilford Fire Rescue transported him to Lakes Region General Hospital where a helicopter was prepared to take him to Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center. However, his condition improved and he remained at LRGH.
"This was one of the most significant ice rescues I've ever been part of," said Erickson. He explained that Beaudoin and Pierce were so far from shore that their flashlights could barely be seen, while several relay points and rescue ropes were required to keep them tethered.
"This is what we train for," he said, "and the training paid off. They did a great job."
The snowmobiles sank in at least 130 feet of water.
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