Two teens fell through the ice on Paint Lake in Oxford Township on Sunday afternoon. Oxford Fire Chief Matt Majestic warns residents that with the recent temperatures above freezing, and the rain over the past few days, the ice is not stable right now and they should avoid going out on lakes and ponds. Photo provided by Oxford Fire Department
Ice is unsafe right now, fire Chief Majestic warns
By Jim Newell
OXFORD TWP. – The Oxford Fire Department averted what could have been a tragedy, rescuing two teenagers who fell through the ice on Paint Lake on Sunday afternoon
The incident happened at 1:35 p.m. after the teens were on Paint Lake, formerly known as Squaw Lake, approximately 75 yards from shore near the DNR access site. One teen had gone completely under water and was transported to a hospital as a precaution. The second teen only had one leg fall through the ice and was released to his parents, said Oxford fire Chief Matt Majestic.
“One boy went in one leg and the rest of him stayed up top, and the other boy went in and took a whole section of ice out with him. When he first went under he went completely under, he was submerged. When he popped back up he was holding onto the ice shelf,” Majestic said. “The piece he fell in on was like a block that had broken free because it was weakened by that honeycombing or candling effect.”
By the time firefighters arrived the piece of ice the boy was holding onto had already started to submerge.
“It was down about 8-10 inches because it’s weak ice, it’s hollow ice, so water is flowing through it now rather than being under it,” Majestic said.
Firefighter Ryan McLeod went out onto the ice and used a rescue sling to pull the teen to safety, urging the boy to kick his feet once firefighters began pulling on the rescue rope. The teen, however, said he could not move his legs to kick.
“The problem is that your body starts shutting down and sending your fluids back to the core to try to take care of the heart, lungs and brain. So, it makes it very difficult for you to use your arms and legs. And that’s the situation he was in,” Majestic said.
McCloud fell through the weakened ice himself just a few feet from the teen, but was wearing a protective suit. “He’s in the immersion suit, that’s what we go out with. He did a good job,” Majestic said.
Firefighters on shore then pulled the two to dry land.
From the time the teen fell through the ice, until the time the fire department received the call, arrived on scene and were able to pull the teen free was about 16 minutes. The boy whose leg went through the ice was able to get himself out and get onshore, Majestic said.
“And rightfully so, he didn’t go back for the other boy because he would have gone in too,” Majestic said. “Even as our rescuers got to him they could feel the ice bouncing as they were walking and they got down on their hands and knees as they got close.”
With the recent change in weather from below freezing to warmer days above freezing, coupled with the rain, the ice becomes even more unstable, Majestic warns.
“We’ve had weather that went from full on frigid winter and that lasted for a few days but now we’ve been hit with a good five to six days that never got below freezing and that ice begins to decay,” Majestic said. “And when it decays it does what’s called candling. It literally looks like if you were to take a bundle of candles and tie them together. Or even honeycomb. That’s another term used.”
When ice begins to decay, it does so from the bottom upward and the top downward until it meets in the middle, creating ice that resembles a test tube, Majestic said.
“It’s reminiscent of that old game Don’t Break the Ice. It fails in that similar fashion. Just placing pressure on it from above causes it to break. Think of that bundle of candles or bundle of test tubes, and how you can just push on one in the center, how you can just slide it out. That’s exactly what happens when the ice begins to decay this time of year,” Majestic said. “It could be eight or 10 inches thick, it doesn’t matter. It just doesn’t have the integrity or strength because of those weakened hollow points all the way throughout.”
As soon as there is one opening in the ice it begins to break off in pieces.
“It’s just going to start to exponentially decay,” Majestic said. “As soon as ice starts pulling away from shore, it’s showing you that it’s in decay, it’s breaking down, it’s starting to melt.”
As of press time information as to why the teens were on the ice had not been released.