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'It is very disappointing that some people chose to ignore the warnings'

Cheryl Browne

By Cheryl Browne, Barrie Examiner


Four people fell through the ice and into the frigid water, Saturday.

South Simcoe police officers were called to the Beach Road area in Gilford around 5 p.m. after a report of people clinging to ice floes in Lake Simcoe.

A popular fishing location, the foursome were 400 to 600 metres out into the bay when the ice beneath them collapsed.

"It is very disappointing that some people chose to ignore the warnings that were issued by police to stay off the ice," said South Simcoe police Staff Sgt. Steve Wilson. "They are not only risking their own lives, but the lives of the emergency responders who are called to rescue them."

An airboat from York Regional Police and Georgina firefighters pulled the people out of the cold water.

Ambulance crews stood by on shore, and an air ambulance was dispatched to land in a nearby field.

The foursome — a 26-year-old Richmond Hill man, a 48-year-old Hamilton man, a 39-year-old Toronto man and a 40-year-old Toronto man — were ice-fishing when the ice broke up underneath them.

All four people were rescued within a half-hour of the call. They were all conscious. Two were treated at the scene for exposure and hypothermia and the other pair was transported to a local hospital.

Police say one of rescuers suffered from hypothermia and was also treated at the scene.

Ice conditions on the lake remain unsafe due to an unusually warm January. Only parts of Cook's Bay were frozen and the main lake is still open water.

Police are urging the public to stay off all ice on any waterway because it is unsafe.

With a lack of ice, many anglers are launching boats to go fishing, but Ontario Provincial Police warn of the dangers associated with cold-weather activities.

According to the OPP, a majority of cold-water deaths occur near shore after victims are thrown from boats while not wearing personal flotation devices (PFDs).

Of a reported 130 boating-related deaths, 60% drowned in water less than minus-15 Celsius and more than 82% were not wearing PFDs.

Being prepared for the unexpected is key when heading out on cold waterways and anglers should be fitted with appropriate PFDs and cold-weather gear to ensure safety if they fall into freezing water.

A person will enter three critical stages after entering cold water.

Within a minute, a person will enter shock, resulting in rapid grasp reflex as the skin tightens followed by hyperventilation and panic which may result in fainting, muscle spasms, narrowing of the arteries and a slowed heart rate.

Within 10 minutes, a victim can lose the ability to move their fingers, arms and legs, which results in swimming failure.

If a victim survives an hour in minus-15 C water, severe hypothermia may set in an result in weakened muscular functions, lack of co-ordination, slowed mental ability and unconsciousness.

Knowing tips to avoid hypothermia can make the difference between death and survival.

Cross your arms tightly against your chest and pull your knees up to your chest. Keep your head and face out of the water and maintain a huddle position and trying signaling for help.

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