MOUNT DESERT, Maine — A car that went through the ice on Long Pond has been removed from the body of water, which serves as the public drinking water supply for the town of Southwest Harbor.
That car was one of multiple items, including ice shacks, all-terrain vehicles, snowmobiles and a truck, to go through the ice on Maine lakes in the past week, according to law enforcement officials. In all, 14 people reportedly went into the water and got out or were rescued, none with serious injuries.
According to Sgt. Kevin Edgecomb of the Mount Desert Police Department, Micea Novac, 25, and Rusty Bernard, 49, both of Southwest Harbor, were in Novac’s 2006 Chevrolet Impala when it went through the ice around midnight Sunday. They were only a few yards from shore where the water wasn’t that deep and were able to get themselves safely out of the pond, he said Tuesday.
The duo broke into a nearby shorefront camp to keep warm, Edgecomb said.
Edgecomb said it is legal to drive vehicles onto the ice on Long Pond and that he doesn’t expect to file charges against them for breaking into the camp, given their reasons for doing so.
“It was cold,” Edgecomb said.
He added that it could have been much worse for Novac and Bernard. If the car broke through the ice even 10 feet farther from shore, he said, the car would have sunk in 40 feet of water.
“They were extremely lucky,” the officer said.
Phil Richter of the Maine Warden Service said Tuesday that not much farther south on the pond where the car broke through there was open water. In that part of the pond, the water is 100 feet deep, he said.
The incident was one of several in the past week in which vehicles or ice shacks went through the ice, according to Richter. On Eagle Lake on Mount Desert Island, which serves as the public drinking water supply, four ice shacks went through the ice as a result of the Jan. 31 windstorm that pushed temperatures up above freezing. No one was hurt when the shacks broke through, he said, and no hazardous materials ended up in the water.
This past weekend, there were six other incidents reported in Maine that resulted in a truck, four all-terrain vehicles and three snowmobiles going into lakes after being operated on surface ice.
Five of the incidents happened on Saturday, including one on Sebasticook Lake in Newport that resulted in five people being rescued by bystanders. The sixth involved a truck breaking through ice into water about 2 feet deep on Long Lake in Naples, Richter said.
“It was a bad week for this,” the warden said.
Richter said the warden service has the ability to fine people if they do not remove submerged vehicles quickly but that they don’t always impose fines if a good-faith effort is being made. He said that, as of Monday, all four ATVs and two snowmobiles were still in the lakes where they sank.
Ice shacks have to be labeled with the owner’s name and must be removed from water bodies by the end of ice fishing season, Richter added. Unlike motor vehicles, which contain hazardous substances, ice shacks simply are considered litter if they end up in the water, he said.
According to Edgecomb, officials with the Maine Department of Environmental Protection were at Long Pond on Tuesday to check on the car. The state agency wanted the vehicle removed as quickly as possible to reduce the threat of contamination to Southwest Harbor’s drinking water supply, he said.
Beatrice Grinnell, Southwest Harbor’s town clerk, said late Tuesday afternoon that DEP officials had been in contact with town officials about the incident. She referred other questions to Town Manager Don Lagrange, who had left for the day.
Edgecomb said a contractor used a backhoe Tuesday to pull Novac’s car to shore and then to lift it out and onto a flatbed wrecker. He said Novac will be charged for the cost of removing the car from the pond.
Correction: An earlier version of the photo caption contained an error. A towing company employee, not a firefighter, is seen securing a cable to a car that broke through the ice and sank late Sunday night in shallow water in Long Pond on Mount Desert Island.