3 Ice Fishermen Confirmed Dead After Falling Into Freezing Water on Lake Champlain

The three deaths prompted the cancellation of the area's annual ice fishing tournament, which was set to take place over the weekend

Vermont State Police demonstrate a new airboat on Lake Champlain's Malletts Bay
Photo: Vermont State Police Facebook

Three ice fishermen are confirmed to have died after falling through unseasonably thin ice on Lake Champlain in Vermont.

The first victim, identified by authorities as 62-year-old local Wayne Alexander, fell through the ice while fishing on Thursday, Feb. 9, according to a release from Vermont State Police.

"When he failed to return as expected by around 6 p.m., a relative went to look for him. The relative located his truck parked in the fishing access at Grand Isle State Park at about 8:30 p.m. and called emergency crews," added the release.

"Following a search, emergency crews located the man in the water at about 9:30 p.m. He was wearing a flotation suit. Crews brought the victim to shore, and he was then taken to UVMMC (University of Vermont Medical Center)."

People Ice Fish on the Froze Lake Champlain Near Port Henry New York Usa 10 February 2013
Cj Gunther/EPA/Shutterstock

In an update to the release, police said that Alexander was later pronounced dead at the Medical Center. Authorities are now waiting for autopsy results to determine the exact cause of death, although the event is being treated as "being an accident and is not considered suspicious at this time," added the police update.

Two days later, state police received another report that a UTV (utility task vehicle) had "broke through the ice" on the same lake, with first responders learning that two people were inside the vehicle at the time.

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"One individual, a 71-year-old man from Williamstown, was pulled from the water, brought to shore by the South Hero Fire Department, received emergency medical care and was taken by ambulance to UVMMC," stated a Feb. 11 police report.

"The second individual, an 88-year-old man from East Montpelier, was subsequently located inside the UTV by a diver from Colchester Technical Rescue and was pronounced deceased on scene," it continued.

Tragically the police added in a later update that the 71-year-old also died at the UVMMC in Burlington. In a separate release, authorities identified the victims as brothers John Fleury, 71, and Wayne Fleury, 88.

As with the earlier death of Alexander, the Vermont State Police is not considering the brothers' deaths as suspicious at this time.

The Vermont Fish and Wildlife has now advised the public to stay off Lake Champlain "due to unsafe ice conditions resulting from our recent warm weather," in a Facebook post.

"On inland waters where ice conditions may be better, we ask that you use good judgement, check the ice as you go, and leave vehicles on shore," it added.

"We really want to encourage people to not go out on the ice," commissioner Christopher Herrick told WCAX. "Clearly it's not safe. This is the second event we've had in two days. So ice safety is the most important thing."

The tragic deaths also forced the cancellation of the 43rd Islands Ice Fishing Derby on Feb. 11 and 12.

Speaking to CNN, competition committee member Gilbert Gagner said that he would not be venturing back on the ice due to the warmer-than-expected conditions or renting fishing equipment from his General Store.

"I've never seen anything like this," Gagner told CNN about the conditions. "This is craziness."

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