February 22, 2010

Deadly plunge into Beaver Lake: Neighbors rally rescue effort

Harry Duval, left, and Josh Gallant, right, look out across Beaver Lake yesterday where neighbors, including the boys, mounted a heroic rescue effort the night before to save Edward Jackson, who drowned after driving his ATV into open water.
Union Leader Correspondent

— A Derry man drowned in Beaver Lake after riding his four-wheeler into a patch of open water.
      Police said Edward Jackson, 53, of 41 Tsienneto Road, was riding around the lake and doing doughnuts on the ice just after 11 p.m. Saturday. Several neighbors looking out their windows watched in disbelief as he drove across a hole in the ice and the tail lights of his ATV disappeared into the water.
      “I was up watching a show on the History Channel about the Kennedy assassination when I saw the guy out there on the ATV. He’d been out there a while, and then I saw him making a big arc,” Craig Fowler said.

 "I thought to myself, ‘Oh my god; I hope that guy knows there’s open water there.’ Everything that happened next was like slow motion."  Fowler said he yelled to his girlfriend to call 911 as he grabbed his boots and ran outside. By then, his neighbors across the lake, Mike and Suzanne Duval, had already called 911.  
     "I was asleep, but my wife saw it happen," Duval said. "She got on the phone and woke me up. By the time I looked outside, I could hear my teenage son a few doors down, outside on the porch. That's  when I heard what sounded like someone trying to paddle in the water."
Ladder and life jacket
      Harry Duval and his friend, Josh Gallant, both freshmen at Pinkerton Academy, had also seen the ATV go into the water. They were visiting with Duval's brother-in-law, Barry Cohoon, and his family.
      "I yelled to my cousin, 'We gotta do something.' She grabbed the phone to call 911 and that's when we ran outside. That's when we heard a moaning coming from the water," said Harry Duval. "It was the scariest thing I've ever seen."
     His uncle, Barry Cohoon, grabbed an extension ladder and a life jacket, while Fowler ran to get a canoe along the shore. Duval ran to the lake and remained on the phone with fire officials as he watched his friends scrambling to find a way to reach the submerged rider.
     Fowler said he searched the surface of the lake with a flashlight, but at first couldn't see anyone."I was hoping to see someone out there flapping around in the water, but by the time we got out  there with the canoe, there was not a sound," Fowler said.  
     Using flashlights, they were able to spot a helmet sticking out from the water, so they directed the canoe toward the helmet, said Fowler.
     Duval said Fowler didn't have a paddle, so he used his hands to move the canoe through the frigid water. Duval extended the ladder out into the water so that Fowler could grab hold of it and pull himself closer to where Jackson was.
      "We always keep ladders down by the shore in winter, just in case," Duval said.
     "I didn't know at that point if there was anyone inside the helmet. When I got there, I could see a shoulder. I tried to reach out to the guy, but the canoe started to roll, so I had to shift my weight to the other side of the canoe as I grabbed onto the guy's coat. Then I just used both my hands and pinned him to the side of the canoe and shifted my weight again, just to keep his head out of the water," Fowler said.
     By then he could see the blue and red lights from police and fire crews approaching.
    "I guess I was just running on pure adrenaline," said Fowler.
Hanging on for dear life
      Rescuers directed Duval to get off the ice, but he refused until he could see that the rescuers had reached Fowler.
     "I wasn't going to leave Craig out there. He was hanging onto the guy for dear life, and all I could think was that he was going to go in with him, before they got to him. Once I could see they'd reached him, I was happy to leave the ice," said Duval. "Everything was crazy and dark. What a scene."
     New Hampshire Fish and Game Lt. John Wimsatt said Jackson was unconscious when he was pulled from the lake by rescue divers. Jackson was taken to Parkland Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead.
     Information from the medical examiner yesterday morning listed the preliminary cause of death as drowning with associated factors of hypothermia, Wimsatt said.
     Wimsatt said it appears alcohol may have been involved in the accident. The water was about 6 to 8 feet deep where Jackson drowned, he said.
      "Neighbors actually saw the headlights and tail lights disappear into the lake. Unlike a snowmobile, the ATV didn't submerge because of the big tires, so they knew right where to find him," Wimsatt said.
More people on lakes
     Duval said the lights were still on yesterday morning when Jackson's friends came back and pulled the ATV from the lake.
     "I felt bad for those guys. They were naturally upset over losing their friend. I didn't think they were going to get it, but finally they got the ATV out. Fish and Game was supposed to come and haul it out, but they wanted to do it, almost like a last act of friendship," Duval said.
     Wimsatt said the Fish and Game department has noticed an increase in nighttime activity on lakes across southern New Hampshire, and will be stepping up patrols.
     "Snowmobile trails are not so good right now, due to lack of snow, which is the main reason why we're seeing more people out on lakes," said Wimsatt.
    He noted a similar incident Feb. 5 on Big Island Pond in East Hampstead in which Bernard Czeremin, 52, was thrown from a snowmobile while riding about 10:30 p.m. Czeremin struck a snow mound protruding from the ice and was thrown from the snowmobile, Wimsatt said.
     "Bitter cold helps to quiet lake activity at night. But the combination of lack of good trail snow and warmer temperatures has been bringing more people to the lakes," Wimsatt said.

No comments:

Post a Comment