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Ice Safety Warning Issued After Budd Lake Deaths

Hopatcong police encourage ice safety before going out on frozen waters.

Hopatcong police have asked residents to educate themselves about the dangers of stepping out on to a frozen lake after two teenage boys fell through the ice of Budd Lake Monday night, their bodies recovered by authorities.

State and local police spent days on Budd Lake searching for two missing teenagers believed to have fallen through the ice. The body of one of the teenagers was recovered Tuesday. The second teen's body was recovered Wednesday.

Hopatcong Police Lt. Thomas Kmetz wrote a message to residents on the Hopatcong Police Facebook page reminding them of other, local incidents where individuals who went out on a lake perceived to be frozen had died. He noted the 2004 death of Thomas Stafford. Stafford's snowmobile went down in frozen waters of the lake, Kmetz said.

He mentioned Lake Hopatcong, which appears frozen, and said the lake is not safe and residents should not assume the lake is frozen enough to enter because there is visible ice. Residents should not enter the lake or tell others to enter.

"Especially on Lake Hopatcong where there are springs underwater, depth changes up to 50 feet in the deepest parts, bubbler systems put in by homeowners to protect their docks, winds that act like the bubbler systems where the water meets the ice and sections of water where ice has seperated," he said.

Kmetz primarily appealed to parents and asked them to discuss ice safety with their children. He provided several discussion points, including that ice by bridges can be thin and if there are ice fishermen out on the lake, it does not mean it is necessarily safe. He said there is no reason not to wear a life vest on the ice if kids do go out. He also gave a descriptive scenario of what it is like to fall through the ice and attempt to come out alive.

"We cannot watch our children every minute of everyday. Especially as teenagers; They know best, they are immortal, life is just begining for them so why worry? And they make some really bad decisions," he said. "Please take the time to go over this with them. Smile when they say 'Duh mom, like I don't know that.' Maybe before they cross a frozen lake they will remember what you talked about."

Kmetz offered further safety tips on the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources' website.

jazzman January 09, 2013 at 11:13 PM
my memory on that 2004 death of Thomas Stafford,he died after a night of drinking,driving his snowmoble 2am in the morning in a snow storm/blizzard conditions with deep snow,zero visiablity,temps about zero with the wind chill,absoluty did not fall through the ice but drove his snowmoble to close to open water likely do his lack of visibility,Also very simaliar to this Budd lake drownings where this dive team is searching they must have fell through ice near the large body of open water,both incidents having nothing to do with ice thickness,I will agree with education and common sense approachs, By ALWAYS staying near the shore line and never venturing out on to the ice at night.

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