RANGELEY, Maine — The search Thursday for three missing snowmobilers presumed to be in Rangeley Lake ended without success, the Maine Warden Service said.
The snowmobilers still had not been found as of Thursday evening, and the search was postponed at least until the weekend.
Lt. Kevin Adam of the Maine Warden Service said around 4:30 p.m. that the search was being called off for the next couple of days due to a windy, choppy weather forecast. Wardens will decide when the search will resume Saturday afternoon.
Cpl. John MacDonald of the warden service said strong winds and fog over Rangeley Lake made navigation extremely hazardous Thursday morning.
“It’s difficult in these temperatures,” said MacDonald, who noted that the weather on Thursday was much colder than on Wednesday.
But just after 11 a.m., weather conditions had improved enough so that game wardens could resume the search, according to MacDonald.
Adam said wardens were able to get out on the water with a side scan sonar, and received valuable data that they can look at over the next few days. The sonar identified several “items of interest” that wardens will investigate when the search resumes, according to MacDonald.
Adam said wardens will continue to search as long as he feels they can do it safely, and as long as the lake doesn’t completely freeze over.
Mechanical problems with airboats being used in the search were a contributing factor in the effort being delayed a few hours on Thursday, according to MacDonald.
“We’re doing the best we can,” he said.
The three snowmobilers — Kenneth Henderson, 40, of China, Glenn Henderson, 43, of Sabattus, and John Spencer, 41, of Litchfield — have been missing since New Year’s Eve.
The trio left Carrabassett Valley for a ride at 6 p.m. Monday and have not been seen since. The men are presumed dead.
As of 3 p.m. Thursday, game wardens still had “a couple of airboats in the water,” MacDonald said.
MacDonald said earlier this week that two of the men’s helmets were recovered in an area of Rangeley Lake where Dawn Newell, 45, of Yarmouth fell through ice while riding across the lake on Monday. Her body was found later that day.
A vigil for the three men was held Wednesday night at Oxford Plains Raceway, where all three were race car drivers.
Game warden divers, watercraft, airboats, side scan sonar and aircraft were used in Thursday’s search, according to MacDonald.
Adam said the ice on Rangeley Lake remains unsafe for people or vehicles, especially since wardens have been in the open water, creating extra waves and weakening the ice.
“Nobody should be on this lake, for any reason or taking any shortcuts,” he said.
BDN photographer Troy Bennett contributed to this report.