Truck plunges through river ice in Fort McMurray, prompting police warning

Wood Buffalo RCMP responded to a 911 call that a pickup truck had fallen through the ice on the Clearwater River.

A team of rescuers worked through -40 C temperatures to free the vehicle

RCMP Cpl. Teri-Ann Deobald said even in extremely cold conditions rivers that are not designated ice roads or crossing should be avoided. (Amanda Loveless)

Wood Buffalo RCMP are issuing a warning after a driver drove a pickup truck onto a river and fell through the ice in Fort McMurray.

Police responded to a 911 call that a truck had fallen through the ice on the Clearwater River near the Snye Point Boat Launch at approximately 6 p.m. Sunday.

Three people were in the vehicle and all escaped without injury

But the truck wasn't as lucky, its front end broke through the ice and was submerged with the tailgate pointing up into the air.

Cpl. Teri-Ann Deobald said even in extremely cold conditions rivers that are not designated ice roads or crossings should be avoided.

"The currents are quite strong underwater. And when they are strong underwater it doesn't allow the ice to freeze as strong as when there is no current," Deobald said.

The RCMP thanked a team of volunteers who risked their lives to help tow away the truck safely.

Driver not from Fort McMurray

Amanda Loveless learned about the community rescue on a Fort McMurray Facebook page and rushed to the scene to witness the recovery mission.

Loveless said a young man visiting from Calgary borrowed a family member's truck and decided to go for a drive on the ice.

"The locals all know that there was a weak spot there in the ice," Loveless said. "Of course, with him not being a local he drove right into where the weak spot was."

Fort McMurray photographer Graham Whatmough snapped this drone shot of the rescue response Sunday night on the Clearwater River. (Graham Whatmough/ www.WhereTheHighwayEnds.com)

Loveless said there were more than 20 people involved in the rescue who worked for about six hours in -40 C to free the truck at approximately 1 a.m. Monday.

"He's just unlucky that he hit that one spot of bad ice," rescuer Marty Frost said. "Fortunately they all got out."

Loveless said the driver wasn't able to drive off with the truck after it sat in the frigid water for hours. Instead, the driver left in another vehicle.

Follow David Thurton, CBC's Fort McMurray correspondent, on FacebookTwitter and email him at david.thurton@cbc.ca


David Thurton is a national reporter in CBC's Parliamentary Bureau. He's worked for CBC in Fort McMurray, the Maritimes and in Canada's Arctic.