For many, the balmy temperatures that much of Ontario experienced over the long weekend were an excellent excuse to get onto the ice for a little skate, some ice fishing, or even a bonspiel.
But as OPP Const. Ed Sanchuk told The Hamilton Spectator, the ice can be very deceiving.
“It might look thick but in reality it could be very thin,” he said following a tragic incident that occurred southeast of Hamilton of Saturday.
The Ontario Provincial Police, fire, and paramedic crews were called to the Waterford North Conservation Area at around 5 p.m., when two people were reported to have fallen through the ice. Authorities later learned that it was a 68-year-old man and a nine-year-old boy.
The man was ice fishing about 25-metres from shore, while the boy was skating around the pond.
When the man fell through the ice into approximately 15 feet of water, the young boy rushed to save him and also fell through.
According to reports, bystanders managed to pull the boy out of the water, but the older man, who’s believed to be the boy’s uncle, wasn’t as lucky.
Norfolk County fire crews were out working in wetsuits until 9 p.m. on Saturday night. When their own safety became jeopardized, they were forced to stop searching for the man.
Underwater search and rescue crews arrived at the scene at around 11:30 a.m. the next morning, and found the man’s body just 45 minutes later. Shortly after, he was pronounced dead on the shore.
Sanchuk told reporters that it was just one of several drownings in Ontario last weekend.
Before going out onto the ice, it’s absolutely imperative to check how thick it is. The Canadian Red Cross recommends the ice be at least 15 centimetres thick for a single person walking or skating on it, and 20 centimetres thick for an entire group. If you want to take a snowmobile or four-wheeler onto the ice, make sure it’s at least 25 centimetres thick.
Simply eye-balling the ice won’t cut it. You’ll need to check its thickness using an ice auger or ice chisel. If you’re not able to get your hands on one of those tools, another option is checking with local authorities, like your municipality or lake association, which may monitor the lake’s ice thickness.
Sanchuk also recommends wearing a personal floatation device or lifejacket.
“Unfortunately when you’re going ice fishing you might not think to wear a life-jacket. But that may have saved this man’s life.”