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Rash of ice incidents sparks safety concerns

Officials urge caution on frozen water bodies

South Pond in Sturbridge, where a recreational vehicle fell through thin ice on Sunday, Jan. 9. Kevin Flanders. (click for larger version)
January 11, 2011
STURBRIDGE — Following several local incidents in the last two weeks in which individuals have plunged through thin ice, law enforcement officials are warning residents to exercise extreme caution when traveling across frozen bodies of water.

According to Massachusetts Environmental Police spokeswoman Catherine Williams, five recreational vehicles fell through ice on frozen ponds in Sturbridge and West Brookfield in the last 10 days. Most recently, an individual operating a recreational vehicle was pulled from South Pond in Sturbridge just before 4 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 9. Additional details about the incident will not be released until members of the Environmental Police finish their investigation.

"There are never any guarantees when it comes to ice — the possibility always exists that it might give way," Williams said. "We ask that people always take the necessary precautions before walking or driving across frozen ponds and lakes."

Officials from the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife recommend assessing ice safety by using a chisel to chop a hole in the ice to determine its thickness and condition. It is important to continue chopping these holes as you go further out onto the ice, because the thickness of the ice will not be consistent at every location on the pond or lake. In addition, be aware that ice tends to be thinner on lakes and ponds where there are spring holes, inlets or outlets.

If ice is less than two inches thick, then it is not safe to walk on. Four-inch thick ice is safe for ice fishing and other activities on foot, but ice must reach five inches in order to be safe for snowmobiles, ATV's, and other recreational vehicles. Ice that is between 8 and 12 inches thick is solid enough to support cars and small trucks.

For more on this story, please see tomorrow's Southbridge Evening News.

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