Cross country skier falls through ice

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TURNER — Teams of rescuers from several towns went to Bear Pond on Friday night to pluck out a local man who fell through the ice while cross-country skiing.

Crews rescued 59-year-old John Dudley from the middle of the pond where he stood on a sandbar waist-deep in the frigid water, according to Deborah Turcotte of the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife.

Dudley went through the ice on his skis at about 6:30 p.m., Turcotte said. He was hauled into the safety of an Auburn Fire Department rescue boat about an hour later.

Numerous people were involved in the rescue operation.

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Turner rescue officials first tried to reach Dudley by commandeering a canoe and trying to slide it across the ice. However, the canoe kept breaking through the ice, estimated at about 6 inches thick.

Meanwhile, Maine wardens got involved in the rescue and Auburn fire crews went to Turner with an inflatable boat — called a rapid deployment craft but known informally as the “banana boat.”

Rescue crews in cold-water suits made their way out to Dudley as he stood in one of the shallowest areas of the pond. They maneuvered the boat across the ice until they made it to open water. When they reached Dudley, he was loaded onto the boat.

A long line of wardens, firefighters, police and rescue crews as well as a group of bystanders used a 1,500-foot rope to haul the canoe and the inflatable boat back to shore, Turcotte said.

When he was safely on land again, Dudley was able to get out of the boat and walk to an ambulance. He was taken to Central Maine Medical Center in Lewiston where he was being treated for cold-water exposure later in the night, according to Turcotte.

One local girl said Dudley had been her science teacher at Tripp Middle School in Turner. Turcotte said Dudley broke through the ice just minutes after he’d gone out to ski.

“His wife said Mr. Dudley usually skis on the ice near the shore where it’s still safe,” Turcotte said, “but decided to go out to the center of the pond.”

The Warden Service in recent weeks has been reminding people about the dangers of thin ice. Several ponds and lakes were expected to experience ice-out over the weekend as temperatures flirt with 70 degrees.

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