Search and Rescue volunteers retrieve an ice fisherman’s gear on Sunday, Jan. 3 after he fell through the ice on Gardom Lake but was able to save himself before help arrived. (Contributed)

Search and Rescue volunteers retrieve an ice fisherman’s gear on Sunday, Jan. 3 after he fell through the ice on Gardom Lake but was able to save himself before help arrived. (Contributed)

Shuswap Search and Rescue respond after fisherman falls through thin lake ice

Man rescues himself before help arrives but SAR volunteers retrieve his gear

Shuswap Volunteer Search and Rescue members rushed to the rescue of a man who fell through the ice at Gardom Lake only to find he had pulled himself free and left the scene.

Search manager John Schut said the Jan. 3 call about a hole in the thin ice and unattended ice fishing gear was treated as an emergency, so eight SAR volunteers rushed to the lake south of Salmon Arm. Once they arrived, Schut said a witness told them they had seen the man pull himself free from the hole in the ice and return to shore before leaving the area.

Schut said although they were no longer needed, in order to discourage anyone from venturing onto the ice to retrieve the gear, the situation became an unexpected cold-water rescue training session. After donning protective ice-rescue suits, one SAR volunteer crawled out onto the ice with a harness and ropes running back to the rest of the rescue team onshore.

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They retrieved the ice fishing gear, which was turned over to the Enderby RCMP; Schut said the police were trying to track down the gear’s owner in order to return it to them.

In a real rescue, Schut said the suited and harnessed rescue team member would crawl out onto the ice with a second harness for the person who fell through and then both would be dragged back by the rest of the team.

Time is of the essence when a person is in the freezing cold water but Schut said the safety of would-be rescuers should be the first concern when helping someone.

While awaiting search and rescue at the scene of a fall through the ice, Schut said bystanders should not venture onto the ice near the hole but can attempt a rescue using ropes, branches or whatever else might be close at hand.

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Schut said people should stay off the ice at Gardom Lake and any other lakes where the ice is thin or where there is a layer of ice or slush on top of the ice surface.

On strong ice, Schut said two inches of ice is required for one person to walk on it safely and four inches is required for groups to walk or for people to ice fish. Due to the warmer weather in recent days, Schut said people should be vigilant as ice on any lake in the area might hold weight in some spots but be weaker in others.



jim.elliot@saobserver.net

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