Our hearts are with the families of the three men lost on Rangeley Lake, but the more we examine the issue the more apparent it becomes that the Rangeley Snodeo, scheduled for next week, must go on.
The trio, Kenneth Henderson of China, Glen Henderson of Sabattus and John Spencer of Litchfield apparently went through thin ice on the evening of Dec. 30th.
The men were all in their early 40s and are now deeply mourned by their friends, families and communities.
The Warden Service searched the lake for four days with air boats, side scan sonar and a Maine Forest Service aircraft before the lake surface became too unsafe to continue.
They quickly located the men’s helmets and gloves, and believe they have located the snowmobiles in 70 feet of water.
But the men have been missing ever since, which has understandably tormented their families.
The Rangeley Lakes Snowmobile Club plans all year for its upcoming Snodeo, a large gathering of snowmobile enthusiasts from several states.
The three-day festival is scheduled for Jan. 24-26, when the ice is usually guaranteed to be safe enough for sledding.
While sledders are, of course, free to make their own decisions, they should consider several facts.
Thousands of people have built this event into their schedules or vacations and have reservations with local motels. Meanwhile, local merchants ranging from snow machine dealers to restaurants and stores depend upon the event for revenue.
Several lake events, including a radar run, poker run and parade occur on the other side of the lake from where the incident occurred. The lake is large, ten square miles, which is about three times the size of Lake Auburn.
There have been unfortunate times when lives are lost and bodies unrecoverable for a period of time.
Last year, a skier slipped into a crevasse at Tuckerman Ravine. After lowering rescuers into the crevasse to retrieve the body, a decision was made to go no further. The body was later recovered in the late spring.
In Rangeley, there is still hope that these men can be located soon, perhaps even before Snodeo begins, which would resolve the problem.
The Warden Service plans to lower a submersible robot through a hole in the ice to continue searching, once the ice is thick enough to withstand the weight of searchers and equipment. If the bodies are found, divers will try to bring the men to the surface and return them to their loved ones.
Life, of course, will never be the same for the three families and the friends of the men lost on the lake.
We can empathize with them and respect their grief, but life in this recreation-dependent Maine community cannot stand still.
The opinions expressed in this column reflect the views of the ownership and the editorial board.