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DANGER: Ice shift, open water
RUMFORD- Anyone who travels Route 2 west can clearly see the open water, ice ridges and accompanying them, dozens of snowmobile tracks.
According to 15-year-veteran Maine Game Warden, Brock Clukey, “The Androscoggin is a real concern. Enforcement of the river is harder than you would think. It's very unsafe. It's wide and people don't realize that there's a strong current under there. People think it's dead water, but it's not.”
Two years ago, 21-year-old Michael Thurston was snowmobiling with his friend, Benjamin Hodgkins after dark when he drove into open water downstream from the Rumford Point bridge where the Concord River flows into the Androscoggin River.
Hodgkins was able to avoid the open water, as he was following his friend, and went for help. Thurston propped himself up on the ice with his arms for about an hour until Richard Bonnell and Rumford firefighters were able to throw him a rope and pull him to safety.
Thurston had to be LifeFlighted to Central Maine Medical Center where he was treated for hypothermia and his snowmobile remained at the bottom of the river.
How soon we forget the tragedy of others and the lives endangered and potentially lost during these rescue missions.
Clukey noted, “We need to educate people on being safe while they're out there. Riders need to be aware that snowmobiles aren't allowed on open water. It's a civil violation. We can't tell them that they can't be on the river, but we can certainly encourage them to stay off and be aware of where they are.”
Area game wardens patrol the higher concentrated areas where snowmobiles tend to gather and perform routine registration and helmet checks.
“We've been very lucky,” noted Clukey. “I think our patrols and education of the riders has been successful. We haven't had any life threatening issues since that one a couple years ago on the river.”
Winter recreationists are being encouraged to stay off the river, especially near the hyrdo dam and where open water exists.
If a person does go through the ice or into open water, the Maine Warden Service advises you to try to avoid panicking. You should try to get your arms on the ice and prop yourself up, while kicking your legs to get some lift while trying to slide onto the ice.
Be safe and ride with caution.