SOUTH HERO, Vt. (AP) — After three men fell through the ice and died this past week while fishing on Lake Champlain, the Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department warned people on Saturday to stay off the frozen lake due to unsafe conditions.
The 43rd annual Islands Ice Fishing Derby, planned for this past weekend, was cancelled on Saturday as well, according to a post on the derby’s Facebook page. It said the Grand Isle County Sheriff’s Department requested the cancellation due to the ice conditions.
Vermont brothers John Fleury, 71, of Williamstown, and Wayne Fleury, 88, of East Montpelier, fell through the ice in Keeler Bay in South Hero on Saturday while riding in an enclosed side-by-side utility terrain vehicle, according to the Vermont State Police.
Their deaths came just two days after another ice fisherman, Wayne Alexander, 62, of Grand Isle, Vermont, fell through the ice on Thursday. He had left home shortly before noon to go ice fishing and when he did not return home by that evening a relative went looking for him and then called emergency crews, according to Vermont State Police.
Alexander, who was wearing a floatation suit, was found in the water around 9:30 p.m. and brought to shore by emergency crews, police said. He was pronounced dead at the hospital, according to police.
“Ice conditions on Lake Champlain are not currently safe for recreation due to the past week’s warm weather,” Christopher Herrick, commissioner of the Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department, said Saturday. “Do not venture onto the ice on Lake Champlain.”
The ice situation coincides with a winter that has been warm overall, despite a short-lived bitter cold event earlier this month.
New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut and Maine each had its warmest January on record, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reported last week.
In Maine, two men riding an ATV broke through the ice on Sunday and were rescued by a game warden and sheriff’s deputy in Searsmont. The men were suffering from hypothermia after 30 minutes in the water.
Lake Champlain is a 120-mile- (193 kilometer)-long lake between Vermont and New York and in part of Quebec.
While ice conditions might be better on inland lakes in Vermont, the Fish and Wildlife Department asked anglers to be cautious, check the ice as they go, and leave vehicles on shore.