(UPDATE, 2:43 p.m.) RJ Brown, the Petroleum County Coroner, said on Monday afternoon that the man who died has been identified as Roger F. Schaad of Rexford, Montana, and formerly of Shepherd, Montana. Schaad was 72 years old.
An autopsy is scheduled for Tuesday, January 19th, in Billings with the State Medical Examiner to officially determine the cause and manner of death.
(1st REPORT, 8:42 a.m.) The Petroleum County Sheriff's Office has confirmed that a man drowned in Fort Peck Lake on Saturday.
Four men were fishing on the lake near Crooked Creek Marina. They were driving on the ice in two UTVs (utility terrain vehicle) headed back to the marina when they drifted off course and found themselves on unsafe ice.
One of the UTVs fell through the ice and quickly became submerged with two men on-board. One of the men was able to escape and the other group was able to pull him out of the water and to safety. The second man was not able to get out and drowned as a result.
At approximately 11:30 pm the rescue team recovered the body of the victim. The name of the man has not yet been released.
Petroleum County Sheriff Bill Cassell said in a Facebook post: "I want to warn all sportsman who plan to icefish on Fort Peck to be very careful of the ice conditions. I also want to thank all the responders who assisted in last nights rescue. Without all of the brave men and women who answered the call last night this could have turned out much worse than it did."
Responding agencies included Winnett Fire, US Fish & Wildlife Service, Winnett Ambulance, and Petroleum County Sheriff's Office, along with several fellow sportsmen.
Safety tips from Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks:
- If you have even the slightest doubt about the safety off the ice, stay off it.
- Blue ice is usually hard. Watch out for opaque, gray, dark or porous spots in the ice that could be weak, soft areas. Ice also tends to thin more quickly at the shorelines.
- Watch for pressure ridges. These are areas of open water or thin ice where the ice has cracked and heaved due to expansion from freezing.
- Test the ice ahead of you with an ice spud bar or an auger.
- Don’t leave children unsupervised on the ice.
- Lakes and ponds do not freeze at the same thickness all over.
- Moving water – rivers, streams and springs – weaken ice by wearing it away from underneath. Avoid ice on rivers and streams, or where a river or stream enters a lake, pond or reservoir.
The following are MINIMUMS needed with ice thickness:
- 4 inches: 1 person with gear
- 5 inches: small group spread out
- 6 inches: snowmobile or ATV
- 9 inches: small automobile (not recommended, but if you must, proceed at your own risk!)
- 12 inches: pickup truck or SUV (again, not recommended)