A Vermont ice fishing tournament was canceled this weekend after three people died from thin ice over the previous few days.
The Islands Ice Fishing Derby was supposed to kick off Saturday, but organizers announced the cancellation at 9:30 a.m., after a request from local law enforcement, according to the group’s Facebook page.
This popular annual event on Lake Champlain has been a tradition for 43 years, but organizers and law enforcement said ice conditions were too dangerous this year.
The competition raises money for conservation on Lake Champlain, and it’s something the community looks forward to all year, Gilbert Gagner, a member of the Islands Ice Fishing Derby committee, told CNN.
“I’ve never seen anything like this,” said Gagner, who’s been involved with the derby for 25 years. “This is craziness.”
3 Deaths in 3 Days
The first warning sign of dangerous ice conditions happened on Thursday, when Wayne Alexander, 62, died after falling through lake ice, according to a report from Vermont State Police. Authorities found his body in the water hours after he was expected home, still wearing a flotation suit, the report said.
Then tragedy struck again on Saturday when two elderly brothers died after their vehicle broke through the ice, Vermont State Police said in another report.
First responders managed to pull John Fleury, a 71-year-old from Williamstown, out of the water alive, though he still died after arriving at a nearby hospital. His brother Wayne Fleury, 88, of East Montpelier, was inside the vehicle of a diver from Colchester Technical Rescue. Wayne Fleury was pronounced dead on the scene, according to an update of the news release.
It’s unclear if the two men were participating in the Islands Ice Fishing Derby, but the initial police report is dated 7:10 a.m. Saturday, just 2 hours before the cancellation on the group’s Facebook page.
“All ice anglers are asked to get off the ice. Tickets will be refunded. Contact Martin’s General Store to request your refund,” the announcement said.
Learn more about the event on the Islands Ice Fishing Derby website, and learn how to stay safe on the ice with some GearJunkie tips.