OXFORD — Hundreds of friends and relatives commemorated three men presumed dead after disappearing on Rangeley Lake while snowmobiling Sunday. Mourners crowded around a bonfire in the freezing night, holding up candles pushed through Dixie cups to catch the wax and block the wind.
Glenn Henderson, 43, of Sabattus, his cousin, Kenneth Henderson, 40, of China, and friend John Spencer, 41, of Litchfield are believed to have plunged into the lake Sunday night, according to the Maine Warden Service.
On the same evening, Dawn Newell, 45, of Yarmouth, had been riding with her son when both rode into open water. Her 16-year-old son managed to jump to solid ice before his snowmobile sank and called 911 — but Newell went through the ice.
The Warden Service said that while searching for Newell, wardens found evidence that the three men had also fallen through the ice.
All three had raced at Oxford Plains Speedway, and a large portion of the crowd knew them as racers.
A truck from Perry Transport of Poland, where John Spencer had previously worked, helped light up the vigil. Several people held up poster-size photos of the men and their cars.
Missy Morgan, a friend of Glenn Henderson who’d raced with him, said racers are a close-knit group. “When you race the way we race, it doesn’t matter if you’re blood or not. We’re all family, no matter what,” she said.
Morgan was collecting money for Glenn’s wife, Jackie Henderson, and for Spencer’s 12-year-old daughter, Cassidy. “It’s not much, but it’s all we can do right now.”
“He’s surely going to be missed,” Line Burnham of Auburn said of Glenn. She and her husband, Jody, were matron of honor and best man at Henderson’s wedding to Jody’s cousin. “He was awesome, full of life,” she said.
Travis Burnham, Line and Jody’s son, said he’s holding out hope that his uncle is still alive. “I still think there could be a possibility,” he said. “I just miss him so much.”
Tom Ferland, a high school friend of Spencer who had recently reconnected with him via Facebook, said he hadn’t had a chance to ride with Spencer, but the two lived nearby in Litchfield and would often argue about Ski-Doo versus Arctic Cat snowmobiles. “He was such a good guy. He was such a good dad to his daughter,” Ferland said.
Joe Banville of Auburn, who’d also gone to school with Spencer, said he and Spencer rode motorcycles in the summer.
Wardens said there were whiteout conditions on the lake and the low visibility would have made it hard for the men to see the open water.
Ferland said he hopes this tragedy reminds other riders to be careful about riding over ice. “As an avid rider, I’ve taken chances myself,” he said. He said he never would again. “You will not catch me trying to take a shortcut,” he said.
Recovery efforts for the three men have been on hold due to the cold and wind but are expected to resume Thursday morning.