ST FRANCIS, Maine — A St. Francis man is safe and recovering from injuries that were not life threatening in the Aroostook County Jail after plunging his snowmobile into the icy St. John River on Saturday night and subsequent arrest on outstanding warrants.
Travis Albert, 28, was pulled to safety by volunteers after he drove his Yamaha Phazer snowmobile over unstable ice near an open channel on the river about a half mile west of Hartt’s Boat Landing, according to Sgt. Jeff Spencer with the Maine Warden Service.
Albert was transported to Northern Maine Medical Center where he was treated and released for hypothermia and a broken rib.
During that time, wardens discovered several outstanding arrest warrants open on Albert and he was arrested and transported to the Aroostook County Jail following his release from NMMC, Spencer said Sunday afternoon.
According to information provided in a release from Cpl. John MacDonald of the Warden Service, Albert and his friend Joshua Jandreau, 28, of St. Francis were traveling up the river on separate machines when they drove on to the unstable ice around 7 p.m. Saturday.
“Mr. Albert went into the river,” Spencer said. “Mr. Jandreau was behind him, lost sight of the sled and when he saw the taillights disappear he realized what had happened and was able to call for help.”
Initial information released by the warden service indicated both men had gone into the water, but Spencer said Albert was the only one to fall through.
“He broke through the packed ice and was in water up to his shoulders,” Spencer said. “He was able to hang on and keep kicking until volunteers were able to crawl on their bellies to get to him.”
According to MacDonald’s release, residents and members of the St. Francis Volunteer Fire Department assisted in the rescue and Albert had been pulled to safety by the time wardens arrived on the scene.
Spencer said Albert was lucky as the spot he went in is easily 10 to 12 feet deep with a strong current.
“He could have been pulled all the way under,” he said. “He was lucky he was able to hang on to the ice.”
The sled remained stuck in the ice Sunday afternoon, Spencer said.
The incident is a good reminder for people to always be cautions when it comes to traveling on frozen waterways, Spencer said.
“The rivers this year especially are not safe,” he said. “The ice thickness has been fluctuating up and down [and] there are safe places to cross but there are a lot of places unstable, as well.”
The incident remains under investigation and Spencer said alcohol may have been a factor.
Albert is due to be arraigned later this week.