SARANAC LAKE - A snowmobiler plunged into open water on Lake Flower Friday but was able to safely get to shore with the help of a local mother and her son who witnessed the incident.
Amanda Irvine of Saranac Lake said she was driving north on Lake Flower Avenue (state Route 86) around 3 p.m. with her son Ivan when they saw a pair of snowmobiles going back and forth at a high rate of speed across open water in the narrow channel of the lake between Harbor Hill Cottages and the road.
Irvine said she was concerned the sleds could go into the lake, so when she reached the Mountain Mist Ice Cream stand, she turned around. Irvine said she did this several times for about 10 minutes, going up and down the section of road, watching the snowmobilers play what she called Russian roulette.
The helmet of a snowmobiler whose sled went into open water on Lake Flower Friday afternoon sits floating in the lake. He made it safely to shore; his snowmobile remains submerged.
(Enterprise photo — Chris Knight)
"I said, 'Ivan, I'm not leaving until I know they're safe,'" Irvine said. "It would have been on my conscience if I had heard somebody drowned. So I kept following them. We went all the way up to Spider Duprey's house (across from the road's intersection with Colony Court), and Ivan said, 'One went through, Mom!'"
Irvine called 911 while her son, a Saranac Lake High School sophomore, ran up the road and out onto a dock near where the snowmobiler went in the water.
"He was in the lake, but his head didn't go under," Ivan Irvine said. "He went over to one of the docks and I helped him get out."
Saranac Lake firefighters and rescue personnel responded to the scene, but a fire department spokesman said the snowmobiler who went in the lake refused any medical attention.
"I said, 'Why don't you get in someone's vehicle until the rescue gets here so you don't get hypothermic?' and he was pissed off, to say the least," Amanda Irvine said. "I said, 'Well, it's better your snowmobile than your life.'"
Irvine said the snowmobiler, who she said looked to be in his late 30s or early 40s, walked away from the scene; she was told he lives nearby.
Irvine said she gave the other snowmobiler a "tongue lashing," telling him they had been foolish and irresponsible. She said he didn't say anything in response and then left the area on his sled shortly thereafter.
The snowmobile that went in the lake was submerged by the time an Enterprise reporter arrived on scene, but a snowmobile helmet could still be seen floating in the water.
State environmental conservation officers and forest rangers responded to the scene. ECO Mike Phelps said the snowmobile owner will have to get the sled out of the water so it's not a navigation hazard and to protect the lake from any environmental contamination.
Phelps said village police had information on the identity of the snowmobilers involved in the incident, but police Sgt. Geoff Carmichael referred the Enterprise back to DEC. Messages left with DEC representatives Friday evening weren't immediately returned.
Irvine said the snowmobilers were lucky she and her son were keeping their eyes on them.
"Guardian angels come in all forms, and today I feel like I was one of theirs," she said.
Contact Chris Knight at 518-891-2600 ext. 24 or firstname.lastname@example.org.