Nfld. & Labrador

Check ice several times before crossing, safety advocate says

With two deaths in the province since Christmas Day, Safety NL is imploring people to check ice multiple times before crossing.

Those prepared for the worst will have the best outcomes, says Darrin Dunphy

People should check the thickness of ice as they move across it to ensure it is safe, says safety expert Darrin Dunphy. (Jaison Empson/CBC)

With two tragic deaths in the province since Christmas Day, Safety NL is imploring people to check the thickness of ice multiple times before crossing frozen ponds or lakes.

"We have to make sure we actually check it, and the only real way to check it is with an axe or an auger," said safety instructor Darrin Dunphy. "We need to cut that hole and actually measure the thickness of the ice."

People have a tendency to check the thickness along the shoreline before crossing, but Dunphy said the best way to do that is to check multiple points as you move along the ice.

Another key is to be prepared.

"The better prepared you are before you leave your house, the better the result will be if something goes terribly wrong," he said.

What can you do?

One of the most important things is to travel with a partner.

Darrin Dunphy, with Safety NL, says nobody should venture onto ice without checking its depth several times. (CBC)

Both people should be carrying a rope, just in case the other ends up going in the water. Dunphy said a simple rope-in-a-bag can be purchased for $30 and can be a lifesaver.

Recreational vehicle users should also carry ice picks in their suits. If a person ends up in the water, they can use the picks to pull themselves out and reduce slipping.

Dunphy also recommended people bring simple coveralls, like interior painters wear. They can be purchased for less than $10, fit easily in a bag, and can block the wind if you need to strip off a wet snowsuit to stay warm.

Know the ice conditions

All those things will prepare you for the worst to happen, he said, but in an ideal situation, they'd never be necessary.

Dunphy said the most important thing is knowing the ice conditions before ever setting out to cross a pond or lake.

"This time of year is always some of the worst times, because we as Newfoundlanders always want to get outdoors," he said, adding that the thick, lush snow cover on top of an icy surface can be deceiving.

"Usually the snow comes before the ice is safe. So we have to be very diligent this time of year. We just can't take for granted, that ice."

December ice conditions are dodgy at the best of times. Weather is still fluctuating, temperatures sometimes above zero, and thin ice is shielded by snow.

People can be fooled into thinking it's safe when they see tracks heading out onto lakes or ponds. Just because somebody went before you, doesn't mean it is safe, Dunphy said.

Ten-year-old Joshua Wilcox was laid to rest on Monday, after dying when his father's side-by-side went through the ice in Clarenville on Christmas Day.

A 36-year-old man died near Grand Falls-Windsor on Dec. 28 when his snowmobile went through the ice on Frozen Ocean Lake.

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