U.S. Coast Guard issues thin ice warning after child dies in Ontario

9-year-old fell into ice field on the Ontario-side of Lake Erie
Posted at 5:58 PM, Feb 17, 2020

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — Ontario police continue to search for the body of a 9-year-old boy who fell into an ice field at Peacock Point along the Canadian side of Lake Erie. The boy was standing on the edge of the ice field when a wave swept the victim and his brother into the icy water. Passerby's rescued the brother but the other child's body has not been located.

U.S. Coast Guard Sector Buffalo is warning the public about the dangers of this winter's thin ice. "Please stay off the ice this winter. We don't have the ice thickness that we usually have at this time," said Ensign Joe Neff, Public Affairs Officer at Coast Guard Station Buffalo.

Normally, Buffalo's waterfront would be filled with thick ice and ice fishermen in mid-February. This year, there is hardly any ice and the ice that does exists is very thin.

"This is not a usual winter that we are having in Western New York. The ice can be very deceiving," added Ensign Neff, who said there have been problems across the state with people, snow mobiles and ATV's falling through thin ice.

Despite the mild winter, frigid temperatures over the past few days have started forming ice in areas like the Buffalo River, at Tift Nature Preserve, and along Buffalo's Outer Harbor.

The concern, said Neff, is people thinking the ice is thick enough to walk on. "If you fall into the water this cold, you are only going to have, maybe, minutes to try and get yourself out of there before hypothermia starts to set in."

The Coast Guard is urging everyone, including children, to stay off of the ice on lakes, ponds, streams and creeks. While streams and creeks are not as deep as Lake Erie, water currents underneath the ice can pull/push someone who falls through so they are stuck under the ice.

People engaging in recreational activities near the water in cold weather need to take precautions such as wearing the proper clothing to prevent hypothermia; wear bright colors to be easily seen; carry safety equipment like a whistle, noise-making device, waterproof VHF-Radio or personal locating beacons; include screwdrivers or ice awls to help climb out if you break through the ice.

Ensign Neff said if you do fall in:

  • Don't panic.
  • Grab the ice shelf.
  • Keep yourself from going under.
  • Kick your feet to create momentum and try to crawl out onto the ice.
  • Roll on the ice away from where you fell in.