January 15, 2013

Search for Rangeley Lake snowmobilers on hold until ice hardens

Lake's ice too thin to support equipment needed for remote-control mini-sub's operation, warden service spokesman says

STAFF REPORT

The Maine Warden Service may have to wait until next month to use an underwater vehicle to resume the search for three snowmobilers believed to have died in Rangeley Lake last month.

click image to enlarge

Two Maine Warden Service air boats head out on the ice on Rangeley Lake in Rangeley Jan. 1 to the location where snowmobiles went through the ice on Dec. 30. A warden service spokesman on Tuesday said plans to use a remote-controlled mini-submarine to locate three missing snowmobilers, presumed drowned in the lake, must wait for the ice to thicken.

Staff file photo by David Leaming


A manufacturer's video showing the Outland 1000 UROV being tested in a pool.

Wardens will wait until the ice is thick enough to support operations that include the vehicle, according to Cpl. John MacDonald of the warden service in a email Tuesday.

The search is for Glenn Henderson, 43, of Sabattus; his cousin, Kenneth Henderson, 40, of China; and friend, John Spencer, 41, of Litchfield, who were reported missing Dec. 31.

The ice is still too thin to hold the people and equipment needed to use the remotely operated underwater vehicle and may not be thick enough until February, he said.

When the ice is thick enough to safely resume the search, a hole in the ice will be cut to operate the vehicle known as an Outland 1000, according to MacDonald.

"It is a tethered unit controlled from the surface with 500 feet of cable. It has a grabber arm attachment, two cameras, two LED lights as well as obstacle avoidance sonar," he said.

Divers will be used when they have specific objects to investigate, he said. The wardens are unable use sonar unless there is open water.

Searchers found helmets and gloves while searching for Dawn Newell, 45, of Yarmouth, who went into the lake the night of Dec. 30 while snowmobiling with her son. Newell's body was recovered Dec. 31.

Wardens said Newell and her son, 16, drove into open water. The boy managed to jump from his snowmobile onto solid ice before his machine sank. He called 911 for help.

The accident was part of what probably was the worst snowmobile tragedy in state history.

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