AUGUSTA — The Maine Warden Service will employ a special underwater vehicle to search for the bodies of three snowmobilers who are believed to have gone into the lake on the night of Dec. 30.
The Warden Service released a statement Monday afternoon saying it is still unable to use sonar equipment on the lake to search for the snowmobilers because of poor ice conditions. Sonar is considered to be the best equipment available for locating the bodies.
Game wardens were hopeful recent warm weather would create open water again to allow use of the sonar unit, but “it appears the water will not open back up due to recent cold temperatures. Plans are now under way to use an underwater remotely operated vehicle the Maine Warden Service received in November of 2012,” according to the statement.
The Warden Service said divers will not be used until “credible, identifiable targets are identified. An assessment will take place as to the best method for retrieval. Sonar searching will have to resume after ice out.”
On the night of Dec. 30, five snowmobilers are believed to have gone into open water on Rangeley Lake. Dawn Newell, age 45, from Yarmouth, and her 16-year-old son from Durham both went in, but the son was able to jump to solid ice, get to shore and call 911. The mother’s body was recovered the next day.
It is believed that Kenneth Henderson, 40, of China, Glen Henderson, 43, of Sabattus, and John Spencer, 41, of Litchfield, also drove their snowmobiles into the open water based on several pieces of evidence, including helmets and gloves, recovered during search efforts for Dawn Newell.
Hampered by severe cold and wind for the first few days, the Warden Service was able to use a sonar unit on Jan. 3 to search for several hours. From that search, game wardens are confident they found all three snowmobiles in approximately 70 feet of water. Poor weather and ice conditions have since prevented further use of the sonar unit.