WINDHAM, Maine — A veteran state game warden with more than 20 years of experience patrolling Maine’s lakes in all seasons went through the ice Friday afternoon on Sebago Lake, the site of a major ice fishing derby this weekend.
The incident happened about 3 p.m., while Warden Gary Allen was riding an ATV on what was an established ATV trail, according to a news release issued by Deborah Turcotte, spokeswoman for the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife.
According to Turcotte, Allen was crossing a pressure ridge about three-quarters of a mile off Raymond Beach when the back wheels of his ATV began spinning and going through the ice. The warden and ATV then both went into the water.
At the time, the warden was wearing a recently issued department “float coat,” which protected his body from the cold water and provided critical flotation, Turcotte said. Allen was able to get out of the water by kicking his feet and sliding onto the ice, which was about 6 inches thick around the pressure ridge. The ATV sank in about 40 feet of water.
Nearby ice fishermen took Allen to their shack so he could warm up. Warden Kris McCabe brought Allen to the shore, where he was further warmed up and evaluated by Windham Fire and Rescue personnel. Turcotte reported that Allen was fine.
Shortly after the accident, Maj. Gregg Sanborn, deputy chief game warden, issued a warning alerting ice anglers to be extremely cautious on ice and to check it before venturing out.
“The ice on Sebago Lake is treacherous and these beautiful late winter days are making the ice conditions worse each day,” Sanborn said. “Maine game wardens are equipped and trained for such events, however, anytime a person ends up in the water in February — warden or not — it is a worse-case scenario.”
Sanborn said plans were being made Friday to remove the ATV from the lake as soon as operationally possible.
“All entities that are required to be notified of a vehicle submersion by state law have been advised,” he said.