By DAVID CARKHUFF, LACONIA DAILY SUN
ALTON — Three people died — a young man from New York and two men from Massachusetts — when their snowmobiles plunged through the ice of Lake Winnipesaukee in separate incidents Saturday.
New Hampshire Fish and Game Lt. Brad Morse oversaw the recovery scenes, one in Alton and the other in Moultonborough.
On Saturday afternoon, a father and his 15-year-old son were riding snowmobiles in the Alton area, off of Rattlesnake Island near The Broads, the deepest part of the lake, Morse said.
“They were up here with a group of people, and they were ice fishing together. The father and son decided to go for a snowmobile ride. They hit some very thin ice that had a thin covering of snow and they both went through,” Morse said.
The father, identified on Monday as Arnaud Remy, 48, managed to make it to an ice shelf and hang on until he was rescued by Tuftonboro Fire and Rescue Department via their air boat, Morse said. Responders arrived Saturday after an emergency call went out around 3:30 p.m. but they had to suspend their search until Sunday. The body of the 15-year-old son, Arthur Remy, was located at 9:30 a.m. Sunday in 73 feet of water, officials said. Responders used a remotely operated vehicle, a submersible that uses a camera to scan underwater, to find and recover the boy’s body, Morse said. A dive team was standing by but was not needed, he said.
The father and son came to the Alton area from Mamaroneck, New York, and joined a group of seven people that was part of the Great Meredith Rotary Fishing Derby, Morse said.
In a separate incident, around noon Saturday, three snowmobilers from Westboro, Massachusetts, plunged into the water between Moultonborough and Sandy Island, Morse said.
“They were snowmobiling, their plan was to go around Long Island and then go up to Meredith Bay to see the ice fishing activity,” Morse said.
Sole survivor was Steven Weiss, 66, who made it to shore. He was transported by Tuftonboro Fire and Rescue and released from the hospital, according to New Hampshire Fish and Game Colonel Kevin Jordan.
The victims were David Crosier, 68; and Mark O’Connell, 62, Jordan reported.
The first rider, O’Connell, skimmed across open water and landed on ice but continued to break through while struggling to stay out of the water, Morse said. “He was out there for about 40 minutes or so before he was recovered by the Tuftonboro air boat, but he was unconscious and not breathing at the time,” Morse said. Medical personnel at the hospital were unable to resuscitate him.
The rider behind him, Weiss, took a wide turn to the right and made it to an ice shelf and was able to navigate onto Long Island, Morse said. Nobody saw what happened to the third rider, Crosier, but his helmet was found by the Tuftonboro Fire Rescue Department air boat crew. On Saturday at 8:30 p.m., the Fish and Game ORV team found his body in 21 feet of water, officials said.
The trio was celebrating O’Connell’s birthday, who just turned 62, Jordan said.
Morse said the lake is unpredictable and should be approached with caution.
“Right now we have variable conditions on the ice,” he said. “We have areas that are open that have a very thin layer of ice with snow on top that are not safe. If you’re going to go out there, you need to go ahead and dig some holes and measure the depth of the ice and make sure it’s safe.”
Incidents of people going through the ice aren’t unusual, Morse said, but “snowmobilers going into the water like this, this is definitely unusual.”
“We have vehicles that go through the ice all the time, and we had probably half a dozen other vehicles go through the ice this weekend, but typically it happens close to shore or they don’t break all the way through and they get out,” he said.
Morse’s advice: “Be safe out there and know what you’re doing and where you’re going.”
Gov. Chris Sununu issued a statement Saturday following the fatalities, which stated, “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. Today’s tragic accidents at Lake Winnipesaukee remind us that even in the set of winters our lakes can be highly unpredictable. There will always be areas of thin ice and open water that need to be avoided to ensure safety. Be careful and be aware of your surroundings. Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families during this difficult time.”
Jordan said the ORV was critical to recovery efforts, noting that it’s extremely hazardous to dive under the ice. He credited the fire and rescue departments of Tuftonboro, Alton, West Ossipee, Moultonborough and Gilford.
“They were a tremendous help, with equipment and people,” Jordan said.
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