Here, let me explain...
We haven't lost anyone to the ice in a long time - perhaps 13 or 14 years, until Saturday night. The U.S. Coast Guard found an islander, George Wellington Jr, dead from hypothermia early Sunday morning. He went through the ice on Saturday night and didn't make it to help in time. The worst part is, they found him just a matter of feet from the Coast Guard Station - he had almost made it.
I didn't really know George. I mean, I knew who he was and had ridden on his taxi lots of time, but I didn't really know him. Those who did know him say he was a great guy who will be sorely missed. What I do know is that George pushed the limit on the ice and paid the ultimate price for it. He had been drinking, he was crossing after dark, and was alone and in a snowstorm with poor visibility. The police are still investigating, but they think he got disorientated and drove right into the Coast Guard cutter channel (a path kept open for ships.) They think he and his snowmobile went into the water, but somehow he managed to climb out and walk to shore before he died of exposure. My heart breaks for his mother. Of her four children, she's lost three; one son died in a car accident, another son died in a boating accident, and now she lost her third son out on the ice. Thank goodness she still has her husband and her daughter to help her get through this.
This is the second ice accident we've had in the past two weeks. A family who regularly visits the island in the winter also went through the ice. They were slowly driving along, parallel to a pressure crack, and drove onto the edge of a large piece of ice that had broken off and was just floating. The weight of their snowmobile caused that end of the piece to go down into the water. Luckily, they were pulling a cutter (a cart on skis) behind them which got caught and kept them and the machine from going down into the 100+ feet of water. They got wet but got out just fine. Driving along side a spot where the ice is already broken is not a good idea - I'm just glad they were O.K.
All of us who travel on that ice need to take heed - it isn't really safe, we just think it is. Every time we choose to venture out there, we are taking a risk. We need to be careful and treat the ice with the respect it deserves.