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Ice is thinner, risks are higher
Search and Rescue volunteer warns parents and outdoor enthusiasts about quickly thinning ice

Lyndsay Herman
Northern News Services
Published Wednesday, May 2, 2012

The president of Yellowknife Search and Rescue is reminding Yellowknife residents to be extremely cautious around steadily melting ice, now that spring temperatures have arrived.

NNSL photo/graphic

Tom Girrior, president of Yellowknife Search and Rescue, points to where a small boy fell through the ice at Yellowknife River Territorial Park on Sunday. The boy sustained no injuries but the incident serves as a reminder that thinning ice creates serious risks for children and adults who are not cautious. - Lyndsay Herman/NNSL photo

"If the ice is very dark it's usually a sign it's rotten," said Tom Girrior. "Anywhere you have open water it is a sign that you really need to proceed with caution."

The warning message comes in the wake of an incident that could have ended much more tragically.

Girrior was at the Yellowknife River Territorial Park for a family barbecue on Sunday when he noticed many children were playing without close supervision along the thin ice and open water of the river.

Just moments after commenting on the apparent danger, Girrior turned to see a small boy, approximately eight years old, fall through the ice.

The boy was able to pull himself out after two attempts and was helped back to shore with the aid of his friends.

Girrior said the incident lasted for only 30 to 40 seconds but it felt much longer in the moment.

"The situation unfolded quickly," he said. "It could have been tragic, really tragic. The Yellowknife River has a fair current through there. If he'd gone under he could have been swept under the ice. He's just lucky he was only walking."

Girrior said it is very important for parents to closely watch their children anywhere there is water or even large ditches, such as the large water-filled ditch at the Parker Field Baseball Diamonds.

Adults should also exercise caution when taking advantage of the warm weather for extra exercise.

"This is the time when we see hypothermia," Girrior said. "People head out for a hike but then the temperature drops down after 6 p.m. They're not wearing a lot of layers, they've been sweating, and didn't bring much by way of spare clothes."

He also said hikers and picnickers should notify someone when they are heading out for the day, in addition to bringing supplies and the right knowledge with them.

"Northerners are generally very well prepared and know what's involved, know the risks," said Girrior. "They know that if you're heading out, even one kilometre outside of Yellowknife, unless you leave a note or tell somebody where you're going, you might as well be walking off the face of the Earth."

Yellowknife Search and Rescue would also like to remind everyone that bears are now active. Hikers and picnickers should take the necessary precautions to keep themselves safe by using bear bells, having bear spray on hand, and keeping a clean campsite.

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