January 14, 2013

Remote-control submarine to resume search for missing Rangeley Lake snowmobilers

Lake likely to remain frozen for season; mini-sub's sonar will be used to locate areas for human divers to investigate

By Kaitlin Schroeder kschroeder@centralmaine.com
Staff Writer

RANGELEY -- The Maine Warden Service is planning to use a remotely operated underwater vehicle to continue the search for the three missing snowmobilers believed to have died in Rangeley Lake.

click image to enlarge

Maine Warden Service personnel return to shore in an airboat on Rangeley Lake on Dec. 31, after motoring over ice in search of three snowmobilers missing and presumed drowned in the lake. Wardens will use a remotely controlled underwater vehicle -- basically, a mini-submarine -- to resume the search, a warden service spokesman said on Monday.

The wardens had hoped the record warm weather would reopen a hole in the ice that froze over more than a week and a half ago, according to Cpl. John MacDonald of the warden service. The wardens now predict that the lake will remain frozen through the winter, and they have moved on to the plan involving the underwater vehicle. MacDonald did not set a date for when the search would resume.

The warden service previously called off the search because of frigid temperatures and high wind. Wardens had been monitoring the lake for an opportunity to resume the search.

The wardens will use the underwater vehicle to search where the divers believe the missing men are in the lake.

Because of the large area needing to be searched and the depth of the lake, MacDonald said sonar is still the best method. The wardens are unable use sonar unless there is open water. Divers will be used when they have specific objects to investigate, he said.

Sonar used before the search was postponed revealed two, possibly three, snowmobiles in the lake where three snowmobiles are assumed to have gone through the ice, according to MacDonald.

The search is for Glenn Henderson, 43, of Sabattus; his cousin, Kenneth Henderson, 40, of China; and friend John Spencer, 41, of Litchfield, who were reported missing Dec. 31 and are presumed dead.

Searchers found helmets and gloves while searching for Dawn Newell, 45, of Yarmouth, who went into the lake the night of Dec. 30 while snowmobiling with her son. Newell's body was recovered Dec. 31.

Wardens said Newell and her son, 16, drove into open water. The boy managed to jump from his snowmobile onto solid ice before his machine sank. He called 911 for help.

The accident was part of what probably was the worst snowmobile tragedy in state history. No state officials can recall another instance in which four snowmobile riders were killed in the same place at roughly the same time.

Kaitlin Schroeder-- 861-9252
kschroeder@mainetoday.com

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