Teen falls through ice near Cumberland, prompting warning about ice safety

Teen falls through ice near Cumberland, prompting warning about ice safety

A teenager escaped a potentially life-threatening incident Sunday when he fell through the thin ice on Maple Lake near Cumberland.

“The call came in around 3 o’clock about a teenager who fell through the ice on Maple Lake,” said Cumberland Fire Rescue Deputy Chief Stephane Dionne.

“We rolled two trucks and activated ground search and rescue.”

BC Ambulance paramedics arrived at the lake first, but neither paramedics nor the fire department were equipped for ice rescues.

“Just for safety because it was an ice rescue, we had already activated SAR just in case, but when we arrived on scene, we saw that the kid was out of the water and in care of BC Ambulance,” added Dionne.

The teen had apparently been able to pull himself out of the frigid water, and officials say he is very lucky to have survived because even a few minutes in the icy water can be fatal.

The ice he’d been walking on just wasn’t thick enough to hold him.

“Where the kid fell, what I could see was maybe less than one inch, that being 2.5 cm, and that’s why he fell,” said Dionne.

Comox Valley Search and Rescue has special equipment for ice rescues, including hand-held picks to pull themselves across the ice, a special ice suit for rescuers and a banana boat it also uses for river rescues.

SAR officials say even with the recent cold snap, ice on lakes and ponds right now might not be thick enough.

“There are a lot of inherent dangers on the ice, particularly when we’ve had such warm temperatures and then this quick freeze. People think the ice is going to be safe, but highly unlikely that it is,” said Comox Valley SAR Manager Paul Berry.

Adventuresmart says ice 7 cm thick or less should be avoided and that 10 cm thick ice is safe for ice fishing, walking, skating or cross-country skiing. But that ice thickness can vary greatly across a body of water.

“Ice that’s grey or even ice that’s quite white can be certainly half as strong as that clear, dark or almost blue ice,” added Berry.

Dean StoltzDean Stoltz

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