On the warm afternoon of Feb. 13, Sylvan Lake mother Keri Pratt was enjoying shooting videos of some lakefront properties with her daughter driving a side-by-side on the frozen lake, when suddenly, they fell through the ice.
The pair were sticking close to shore, Pratt told Sylvan Lake News.
“There were some ice heaves around the Jarvis Bay and Birchcliff shorelines, and we stayed away from them. Looking forward from our side-by-side, we didn’t notice anything different about the ice that gave way and dropped us in. We were driving, and all of a sudden the ice was no longer holding us. I guess I am proof that it can happen to anyone.”
While making an effort to avoid theice heaves, Pratt was caught by surprise when they drove over a flat area and fell through.
“My daughter is a big MythBusters fan, and they did an episode about how to get out a vehicle that was underwater. They concluded that there were two options, get out right away or wait until the vehicle fills with water and exit once the pressure is equalized. My daughter jumped into the lake almost immediately, as she decided that she was not waiting until we were submerged.”
Family and friends, who were also on the ice, quickly arrived and plans were made to use the quads and pull the adventurers out of water.
“Winches and tow ropes were hooked up, my son got in the side by side to ensure it was in neutral and the four quads pulled together to get it out.”
There were no damages to the vehicle, as the engine and intakes were kept out of the water. They were able to drive it back to the trailer, load it up and take it home to a heated garage for a full look over.
Pratt recommends avoiding solo travel on the lake and dressing for the weather.
“My daughter was wet to her chest and I was wet past my knees. It was important that we had winter clothing on for the winter activity,” said Pratt. “I hope that there is some good that can come out of our experience by helping others to be prepared.”
The Canadian Red Cross suggests a minimum ice thickness of 15 cm for walking or skating alone, 20 cm for skating parties or games and 25 cm for snowmobiles. Ice thickness is affected by several factors including the type of water, location, the time of year and other environmental factors such as shock waves from vehicles traveling on the ice, fluctuations in water levels, among others.
The colour of ice may be an indication of its strength, according to the Canadian Red Cross. Clear blue ice is strongest and grey ice is unsafe, indicating the presence of water.
If stuck alone on the ice, RCMP suggest calling for help and resisting the immediate urge to climb back out if one has fallen through. Instead, remain calm reach forward onto the broken ice without pushing down and kick your legs and get into a horizontal position, before crawling onto the ice, away from the open area with arms and legs spread out to evenly distribute body weight.
Rescuing another person from ice can be dangerous and the safest way to do so is from the shore using a long pole or branch, and calling 911.