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Officials stalled on Rindge snowmobile investigation

RINDGE — N.H. Fish and Game has reached a dead end in the investigation of a driver of a snowmobile that conservation officers found partially submerged in the ice in January.

Police and Fish and Game officers have been unable to locate either the current owner of the machine or the person driving it at the time it apparently broke through the ice on Emerson Pond sometime between New Year’s Eve and Jan. 3 , according to Fish and Game Conservation Officer Bill Boudreau in an interview Tuesday. Investigation into the incident is ongoing.

While attempting to remove the snowmobile from the ice in January, the machine fell completely through the ice and became submerged in the water. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has retrieved the machine from the pond, according to Boudreau. On Jan. 18, an EPA dive team was sent in to assist with bringing the snowmobile up out of the water and it was successfully extricated. There does not appear to be any contamination as a result of the incident at this time, according to Boudreau.

The incident was first discovered on Jan. 3 , when Boudreau and another Fish and Game officer were doing a routine check on Emerson Pond. They came across a snowmobile half-submerged in the water. At first, there was concern that the operator might have gone under the ice, and a search team was called out.

Footprints leading from the scene suggested the snowmobile operator had managed to leave the scene safely, but Fish and Game, with assistance from the Rindge Fire Department and Police Department conducted a door-to-door search seeking information on the driver. A remote camera was used to help determine no one had gone under the water.

The Winchendon Fire Department, using a hovercraft vehicle, was able to get the snowmobile’s registration number. However, when they attempted to fully remove the machine, it broke through the ice and became fully submerged.

The machine’s last recorded registration was to a New Ipswich resident. However, when police made contact with the registered owner, he told police that the machine had been sold, Boudreau said. He did not have a record of who had purchased the machine.

Fish and Game has charges hikers with rescue costs when it is proved they took negligent risks, such as hiking after being warned of inclement weather or darkness.

If the driver in this case could be proved to be knowingly negligent, he or she could end up footing the cost of the rescue — which could amount to several thousand dollars including rescue efforts and the removal of the machine, Boudreau said in an interview in January . During the investigation, the ice was only three to four inches thick. Fish and Game recommends at least six inches of ice for a walking surface and eight to 10 inches for vehicle travel.

Anyone with any information about this incident is encouraged to contact New Ipswich Police at 878-2771 or N.H. Fish and Game.

Ashley Saari can be reached at 924-7172 ext. 235 or asaari@ledgertranscript.com. She’s on Twitter at @AshleySaari.

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