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VIDEO: Staged rescue of man, ATV submerged in water in Conception Bay South

Conception Bay South Fire Department firefighter Jeremy McDonald (left) and F/Lieut. Andre Whitty pull “victim” Jack Hickey onto a board and haul him out of the water during a training exercise Wednesday. Joe Gibbons/The Telegram
Conception Bay South Fire Department firefighter Jeremy McDonald (left) and F/Lieut. Andre Whitty pull “victim” Jack Hickey onto a board and haul him out of the water during a training exercise Wednesday. Joe Gibbons/The Telegram

Members of seven organizations gather to highlight importance of ice safety

CONCEPTION BAY SOUTH, N.L. —

An ATV is stopped on the frozen water next to Worsley Park in Conception Bay South. The front end is submerged, while the back end remains on the ice. The temperature is around zero and a light but steady snow falls. A man bobs up and down in the water, moving his arms to stay afloat.

The nearest fire station is about a 14-minute drive, but the sirens had rang out about 15 minutes before the man entered the frigid water, giving the media some footage to edit into their piece.

It’s all part of a staged rescue to bring attention to ATV ice safety, put together by Deputy Mayor Richard Murphy and C.B.S. Fire Chief John Heffernan, with the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary, Royal Canadian Mounted Police, Rovers Ground Search and Rescue, Central Avalon Ground Search and Rescue, and the Avalon T'Railway Corp.

About 30 people, representing all the different organizations, stood watching as speeches were given before the demonstration.

Murphy, who had been fire chief in C.B.S. before he retired, said he had a sense of déjà vu Wednesday morning.


Rescue “victim” Jack Hickey, a member of the Rovers Ground Search and Rescue, waits to be “rescued” after his ATV went through the ice as part of a training exercise. Joe Gibbons/The Telegram
Rescue “victim” Jack Hickey, a member of the Rovers Ground Search and Rescue, waits to be “rescued” after his ATV went through the ice as part of a training exercise. Joe Gibbons/The Telegram


“I remember one New Year’s Eve, at around 10 o’clock in the evening, when we were called out to Lawrence Pond to do, in real life, exactly what we’re going to demonstrate here today,” Murphy said. “Unfortunately that evening was particularly sad, because a 15-year-old died after putting his ATV through the ice.”

There have been similar devastating moments in the province this winter, leaving entire communities in mourning, such as when a 10-year-old Clarenville boy went through the ice while riding on a side-by-side with his father on Christmas Day.

Local authorities and organizations rushed the boy to hospital, after he had been submerged in water for an estimated one hour, where he was eventually pronounced dead.

Heffernan said the focus of this re-enactment is to remind the public of ice safety at a time when the weather is about to change and the potential for ice melting increases.

“Ice is never considered completely safe,” he said. “ATV accidents on ice are preventable.”



There were two different scenarios showcased Wednesday. In the first, two first responders travelled onto the ice on their stomach, displacing their weight, before using a sling.

“Hypothermia is one of the biggest concerns any time someone goes through the ice,” Heffernan said, as the man was slowly lifted out. “Being prepared and wearing the proper floatation device certainly makes a big difference.”

Two first responders holding onto ropes were closer to the shore, to haul them in.

In the second scenario the first responders are similarly placed, with two close to shore and two travelling toward the man who is unable to get out of the water. A board is tipped down into the water and the man kicks his legs to get up on the ice, before being pulled in toward the shore.

This demonstration was done in a controlled environment, near the road, with multiple extra people on hand, in the event anything went wrong.



But add harsher weather, distance and longer response time, as well as other factors, and things get more complicated, Rovers Ground Search and Rescue member Paul French said.

“It adds quite a lot of time and when you’re sitting in a hole of water after going through the ice, that seems like a lifetime every minute,” French said.

On the Avalon Peninsula, ice conditions this time of year are sporadic, and how ice looks can be deceptive, French says.

As well, having the ability to rescue yourself can be a matter of life and death, said Rick Noseworthy, with the Avalon T’Railway Corp.

“(If) you’re going to be in the ice, there’s a 1-10-1 principle,” Noseworthy said, referring to how someone has one minute to get their breathing under control, 10 minutes of usable muscle and energy to get yourself out of the water and an hour to get warm and dry before hypothermia sets in.

Noseworthy advises to never travel alone, and have a life jacket, ice picks and a throw bag — a pouch with 50 feet of rope with a looped end that can be thrown to, or from, someone in the water — and a signalling device such as a horn or whistle. He says these items should be on your body, not on your ATV, snowmobile or side-by-side.

“When you’re 12 and 13 kilometres back in the woods, the best-case scenario, they’re probably an hour, an hour and 20 minutes to get what gear they got to you,” he said. “You have to be able to survive that period of time.”

Twitter: @AndrewLWaterman


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