Experts discuss dangers of thin ice after separate incidents leave man dead, boy in critical condition

Posted at 8:58 PM, Jan 21, 2015

SALT LAKE CITY -- Ice on lakes, ponds and pools is melting quickly thanks to the warm temperatures, and they are creating dangerous and potentially life threatening situations—even on bodies of water normally considered safe this time of year for activities like ice fishing.

Earlier this week, a man died after falling through ice while ice fishing in Wyoming, and in Magna a 12-year-old boy is in critical condition after falling through ice at a community pool.

Capt. Richard Rich, Unified Fire Authority, runs the swiftwater rescue team, and he said waters that are usually safe this time of year are questionable.

“We haven't had a lot of cold weather, so ice that is there may not be as safe as we've been used to,” he said. “As little as 1 inch of ice will support a small load, which can give a false sense of security."

Rich also said shifts in conditions can cause trouble.

“Ice conditions can change rapidly,” he said. “The probability of ice shifting and entrapping you, you have the hypothermia that can set in within minutes. Water at 50 degrees will quickly cause you to become hypothermic, and at that point you make decisions you wouldn’t make otherwise.”

For those going out onto a larger body of water, like a reservoir, Richards advises consulting park officials about the conditions. Richards also said it is a good idea to drill several test holes into ice to make sure conditions are safe before proceeding.

The 12-year-old boy remains in critical condition Wednesday night. He fell into a pool at the Magna Recreation Center around 5 p.m. Tuesday. The boy had hopped over a fence to look for a bathroom. The boy was estimated to have been under water for at least 20 minutes.

There was another incident Monday in Wyoming, where a 61-year old man from Green River fell through the ice on Flaming Gorge and died.

The Sweetwater County Sheriff's Office recovered John Henderson's body Tuesday. Emergency responders believe Henderson was fishing alone at the time.