Tupper Lake snowmobiler rescued from lake

The Saranac Lake Volunteer Fire Department puts its airboat onto Big Tupper Lake on Thursday as it arrives to help the Tupper Lake Volunteer Fire Department, Tupper Lake Volunteer Rescue Squad and New York State Police with a search and rescue effort to save a snowmobiler whose sled had broken through the ice on Thursday night. (Provided photo — Jim Lanthier)

TUPPER LAKE — A snowmobiler who spent around 30 minutes in the waters of Big Tupper Lake after his sled broke through the ice Thursday was rescued by emergency crews and is doing OK according to a friend who saw the break-through happen.

Elliott Day was standing at the state boat launch waiting for a ride into town when he says he saw Justin Drasye’s snowmobile break through the ice on the west side of the state Route 30 Moody Flow causeway and heard Drasye screaming for help.

When he saw the light on the snowmobile go under, Day called 911.

Temperatures were approaching 0 degrees near midnight and the area was in the midst of a snowstorm.

The Tupper Lake and Saranac Lake volunteer fire departments, the Tupper Lake Volunteer Rescue Squad and New York State Police were called out at 11:30 p.m. Thursday to the state boat launch on state Route 30.

SLVFD fire driver Rick Yorkey said the department brought its new airboat out to glide over the ice in the search and rescue effort.

TLVFD members could not be reached for comment. According to a press release from SLVFD, emergency members on the airboat found another snowmobiler who was with Drasye — Shawn Fleury — at around 1 a.m. Friday. Fleury had made it to an island in an alcove with his sled, Yorkey said.

“That was a smart decision on his part,” Day said. “Because then there would have been two of them in the water.”

Based on Fleury’s information, emergency members were able to find the watery hole where Drasye’s sled had gone in, where they found his helmet floating in the water, Yorkey said. He said Drasye had struggled for some time trying to get out before removing his helmet and snow pants in the water to get out.

Searchers followed Drasye’s tracks. They found him face-down in a marsh area, alive, but not in good shape. SLVFD said he was “unresponsive and suffering from severe hypothermia.”

Emergency crews brought both snowmobilers back to be treated by Tupper Lake EMS.

Adirondack Health spokesperson Matt Scollin said Fleury was treated at Adirondack Medical Center in Saranac Lake on Friday and released the same day. He said Drasye’s name was not in the hospital’s records.

Day said Drasye’s hands are now banged up from using his fists to break through the ice to get out.

Emergency department members were back in service at 2:50 a.m. Friday.

SLVFD said in a statement that it is thankful for its new airboat — Marine-1.

“This new airboat was absolutely put to the test and ran through the gauntlet Thursday night during its maiden search and rescue in Tupper Lake,” SLVFD wrote in a press release.

Day said as he was waiting around for the SLVFD airboat, he wished TLVFD had one.

Yorkey wasn’t sure if Drasye would have survived if he hadn’t been found quickly.

In a statement, SLVFD thanked the numerous local government boards and the community for their support, emotional and financial, which allows them to conduct rescues like this.


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