Woman rescued from ice near Oseetah Lake

SARANAC LAKE — Saranac Lake firefighters rescued a woman who spent more than an hour partially submerged and clinging to her four-wheeler after it crashed through the ice near Oseetah Lake late Saturday night.

Shelly Hough of Saranac Lake was treated for hypothermia and released from Adirondack Medical Center on Sunday, according to fire Chief Brendan Keough.

It was one of two ice rescues the department was involved in this weekend.

Keough said he and Ken McLaughlin, the department’s dive team captain, responded to the Lake Flower Boat Launch around 1:30 a.m. Sunday after they received a call reporting two people on four-wheelers going through the ice near the Wigmore property. They jumped into the department’s airboat and started up the river.

“When we got to Wigmores there was no sign of four-wheeler tracks or anything,” Keough said. “We continued the search and finally found some tracks and followed them up to the lake.”

The tracks eventually split off in several directions. Firefighters searched each set of tracks, spending about 50 minutes on the lake before they stopped not far from the Lower Locks.

“We stopped the boat to communicate on the radio, and the boat has a tendency to freeze on the lake when it stops,” Keough said. “Even though we stopped for about 10 seconds, the boat was stuck right there. But it was a mixed blessing. We were sitting there with the engine idling, and just faintly I heard someone yelling.”

They turned off the boat, and Keough said he and McLaughlin heard the yelling again but couldn’t tell which direction it was coming from. With the boat frozen in place, Keough, wearing his ice rescue diving suit, decided to set out on foot. After about a 300 to 400 yard march across the ice, the chief said he located Hough in the channel near the locks.

“She was hanging onto a four-wheeler,” he said. “It was basically vertical, but the two front tires were keeping it on the ice shelf. It was running, and she had her feet on the bottom rack of the four-wheeler. She was in the water a little above her waist. She had been there a long time and was very cold.”

Keough said he secured Hough with a rescue sling and rope, but he was concerned the ice around her could break and he could go into the water, too. He called for the department’s hovercraft, which fire drivers Rick Yorkey and Garrett Foster responded in.

“I basically held on to her until they got there,” Keough said. “They flew right up to her with the hovercraft. I jumped in with them and grabbed her and we pulled her right up into the hovercraft.”

Firefighters put Hough in what the chief called a thermal recovery capsule. The hovercraft then took her to Lapan’s Landing where she was transferred to a Saranac Lake Volunteer Rescue Squad ambulance and taken to the hospital.

Keough said it was one of the longest ice rescues in the department’s history.

“I was losing hope we were going to find this person out there,” he said. “She had been out there so long, but we weren’t going to give up until we found something. Luckily, she got one cell phone call out. She called a friend who called 911.”

The chief said Hough had set out Saturday night to search for another person who had been riding a four-wheeler on the lake but was overdue. The male subject, who’s name he didn’t know, had fallen through the lake on his four-wheeler earlier.

“His ATV had fallen through and he self-rescued himself a bunch of times,” Keough said. “He got himself over to what they call the fish hut, got his wet clothes off and warmed himself up. They missed phone calls. He apparently called her when he got to the fish hut, but she had already started looking for him at that point.

“They’re unbelievably lucky people. The fact that we heard her yelling, it’s nothing short of a miracle.”

Tupper Lake and Lake Placid firefighters responded to the call, too. Keough said Billy Allen and Scott Favro helped them secure the frozen airboat on Sunday.

Firefighters also helped two other people who fell through the ice on Lake Flower near the Ice Palace during Saturday’s Winter Carnival festivities. Keough said the man and woman were about 10 feet out on the lake in front of the Lake Flower Boat Launch when they fell through and rescued themselves.

Firefighters were nearby directing traffic when it happened. They brought the pair to a heated tent near the Ice Palace, put warm coats on them and waited for Saranac Lake rescue personnel to respond. Keough said he didn’t know if both people were taken to the hospital or treated at the scene.

Yellow caution tape has since been strung up around the boat launch site.

“It’s a river there,” Keough said. “Most people think it’s a lake, but there’s a moving current, and it comes right in to the boat launch before it curves out and heads down to the (Lake Flower) dam. The ice there is always not good.”

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