Skimming snowmobilers took big risks at Quidi Vidi Lake, says rescuer

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Skimming snowmobilers took big risks at Quidi Vidi Lake, says rescuer

A pair of snowmobilers put their lives at risk on Sunday when they drove across open water on Quidi Vidi Lake in St. John's, according to a search and rescue volunteer.

"No matter how you do it, it's never controlled and it's never safe," said Paul French, a member of the Rovers search and rescue team.

Anthony Germain, host of CBC's St. John's Morning Show, recorded two snowmobilers on Sunday skimming across the lake, using their machines like SeaDoos.

"Neither one of them seemed to have a helmet on," French commented after viewing the video on Monday.

"What happens if you hit a rock, pop one ski up on the side? You might flip over right away," he asked.

"What happens if the ice on the other side is not 100 per cent thick? What happens if you start breaking through that, if you get caught up in it?"

Cold water can kill

French said skimming is common all around the province, and that it is a risky business.

If the snowmobile stops moving, or ends up in the water, the big risk is hypothermia, he said.

French estimated that the water in Quidi Vidi Lake in March is about 2 C. 

"If you go in the water, you have one minute to control your breathing. If you can get through the one minute, you have 10 minutes of meaningful movement," he said.

There is also a risk to the rescuers who would have to go in using a hovercraft, or swim out with a rescue board — a process that involves shoreline tethers and a large group of volunteers.

French's message: Stick to solid ground when it comes to your snowmobiling fun.