Deadly weekend: Three dead, others injured in spate of snowmobile accidents

  • A sign warns of thin ice at the parking lot of the Wolfeboro town docks that look over Lake Winnipesaukee on Monday. GEOFF FORESTER / Monitor staff

  • Ice fishing huts sit on Lake Winnipesaukee in Meredith Harbor on Monday afternoon. GEOFF FORESTER / Monitor staff

Monitor staff
Friday, February 17, 2017

After one of the deadliest snowmobiling days on Lake Winnipesaukee, the body of a third victim was retrieved Sunday morning 73 feet below the frozen surface.

State officials recovered the body of 15-year-old Arthur Remy on Sunday after a slew of snowmobile accidents killed three and injured at least nine others across the state over the weekend.

“We’ve had a lot of accidents; we’ve never had three fatals like that,” New Hamsphire Fish and Game’s Col. Kevin Jordan said Monday.

The Mamaroneck, N.Y., teen was snowmobiling with his father, Arnaud Remy, 48, on the lake while participating in the Great Meredith Rotary Ice Fishing Derby on Saturday. Both went over an area of thin ice in Alton and broke through about 3 p.m. The elder Remy was found in time and treated at Lakes Region General Hospital in Laconia.

In a separate incident earlier that day on Lake Winnipesaukee, three snowmobilers hit open water somewhere between Long Island and Sandy Island.

Steven Weiss, 66, of Westborough, Mass., was able to get himself to the Long Island shore, where rescuers found him about 20 minutes later. But his friend, Mark O’Connell, 62, of Moultonborough, was unresponsive when rescuers found him clinging to an ice-floe in the lake, and was later pronounced dead at the hospital. The third member of their party, David Crosier, 68, also of Westborough, was found 21 feet below the water later that night.

Both Crosier and Remy’s bodies were located and recovered using a remotely operated vehicle – an underwater robot – that the department purchased with a Homeland Security grant, Jordan said.

Rescue officials said that with so much snow, the lake’s ice cover looked deceptively thick and uniform.

“You’re going from an area with some very solid ice to half a mile where there’s nothing,” said Tuftonboro fire Chief Adam Thompson.

Officials warned riders not to go out on ice without checking its thickness, and not to ride in unfamiliar areas. They also said that the best thing to have when riding on ice was a life jacket or flotation device.

Fish and Game reported eleven accidents involving snowmobiles over the weekend.

The department had to rescue one snowmobile on Lake Winnisquam in whiteout conditions on Sunday after two men’s snowmachines fell through thin ice. John Swain, 35, of Laconia was able to make it to shore, but his friend Joshua Cardona, 24, also of Laconia, was stranded on the ice for nearly two hours before rescuers located him and got him to safety.

In Allenstown, 53-year-old Dennis Potter of New Boston hit a telephone pole and sustained serious injuries after losing control of his snowmobile on Saturday. And in Stratford, 17-year-old Cecelia Giuffrida was burned on her foot and leg when her snowmobile caught fire.

The department also responded to snowmobile crashes in Moultonborough, Columbia, Whitefield, Candia, Derry and Barnstead.

“It was crazy,” Jordan said. “You had a snowdrop everywhere, so everyone wanted to get out. . . . It tasked a very short-staffed department.”

Conditions were dangerous elsewhere in the region, too. On Lake Champlain, New York and Vermont officials searched all weekend for two missing snowmobilers, according to media reports. And the Associated Press reported another man died in a snowmobile crash in upstate New York.

The Winnipesaukee incidents prompted Gov. Chris Sununu to release a statement on Saturday advising caution to riders.

“While the heavy snow from from our recent winter storm provides for optimum conditions for winter sports like snowmobiling, they also create hazards and we must be cautious,” he said. “Today’s tragic accidents at Lake Winnipesaukee remind us that even in the best of winters our lakes can be highly unpredictable.”

(Lola Duffort can be reached at 369-3321 or lduffort@cmonitor.com.)