MICHIGAN, USA — With snow on the ground, more people are heading outdoors for winter activities. But that has also lead to three emergencies in the last four days.
A snowmobiler in Allegan County is lucky to be unharmed after falling through the ice on a lake on Monday. In Muskegon County, an ice fisherman had to be rescued on Tuesday. And in Cadillac, a snowboarder was killed when he hit a tree.
The Michigan Department of Natural Resources says each of these types of accidents can be prevented.
"There's no such thing as safe ice," says DNR conservation officer Richard Cardenas.
If you do choose to head out onto a frozen lake or pond, Cardenas with the says it's best to check how much ice there actually is.
"I would say, you know, three, four inches of ice, you're probably good to be going out and ice skating and ice fishing and playing hockey," he says.
But with a much heavier snowmobile? You'll need a little more support.
"The rule of thumb with that is at least eight inches of ice or more," he says.
Can't tell how much ice is on the lake? Someone there likely will.
"If you see a bunch of ice fishermen out there, walk out there and ask them, Hey, how much ice do we got here?" suggests Cardenas. "They'll tell you."
The Allegan Fire Department says the man who fell through the ice was able to stay above water until rescue crews arrived to pull him out with a rope. Cardenas says snowmobiles are often equipped with a float coat to make that an easier task.
"Now you have essentially a personal floatation device already built in," he says. "They're comfortable, keep you warm and adds that little bit extra safety."
On Saturday, Michigan State Police say 23-year-old Kyle Mellon died at Caberfae Peaks in Cadillac while snowboarding, the second death at the ski area in two years. He was killed when he struck a tree.
Cardenas says the DNR does not regulate skiing or snowboarding, but their best safety recommendation is a helmet.
"With technology in the way that they're able to mold these things, they're lighter. They're more comfortable, they look cooler," says Cardenas. "There's a number of examples you can look up that show where helmets are very beneficial and helpful."
It's not known at this time if Mellon was wearing a helmet at the time of the accident.
If you are looking for help from the DNR, you have a couple different options. The DNR website includes a snowmobile digest, which you can read here. You can also call the DNR's RAP line at 1-800-292-7800 and ask to talk to your local conservation officer.
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