Police & Fire

‘My worst fear became a reality’: Warden tells how he survived fall through Moosehead ice

By Julie Harris, Bangor Daily News Staff

Maine Warden Nick Bartholomew told his story Tuesday for the first time after he went through the ice on his snowmobile last week while searching for an overdue snowmobiler on Moosehead Lake.

He and other wardens were searching for Colby Davis, who was separated from his friend in a snowsquall Thursday while riding snowmobiles near Farm Island in Tomhegan Township. Davis was found the next morning, safe and warm in a camp five miles from where he and his friend became separated.

Bartholomew said Tuesday that he was familiar with the area and had spent a lot of time there as a warden, fisherman and snowmobiler on the cove where he fell through. 

“In a place that just days before I had parked my sled and checked fishermen, my worst fear became a reality,” Bartholomew said in a written statement.

He started across the cove that night at 7:30 p.m. heading toward areas of bad ice north of Tomhegan camps where Warden Taylor Valente thought the missing snowmobiler may have gotten into trouble, he said.

The conditions were not good. He described snowsqualls and black ice with no snow on the lake and poor visibility. It was dark and about 3 degrees Fahrenheit.

Then his sled broke through the ice.

“I immediately recognized the feeling of my snowmobile going through the ice and into the water. Before I knew it, I was in the water, swimming as my snowmobile sank below me,” Bartholomew said.

He got his arms up on the good ice, kicked his legs and pulled himself out of the water onto the ice.

“I looked back at the sled in the water and could not comprehend what had happened. In this very spot I had stood next to an ice shack, fishermen and snowmobiles with no indication of thin ice,” he said.

Bartholomew walked about a quarter mile to shore, where he contacted Valente, stopping the other warden from going out on the lake himself.

Bartholomew had minor injuries, including frostbite to his ears, he said.

The Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife retrieved the sled from Moosehead on Saturday, according to Mark Latti, communications director.

Social media is teeming with mentions of snowmobiles having broken through the unsafe ice this winter, including three on Moosehead in mid-February. One man died this season.

The MDIF&W does not have an actual count because people don’t report them as they should, Latti said.

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