ON THIN ICE Jordan Kirk and Don Steedman stand close to shore on Lake Windermere, silhouetted in the morning light. Both men fell through the lake ice just days earlier. Photo by Kelsey Verboom

By Joshua Estabrooks

Pioneer Staff

Pockets of thin ice on Lake Windermere have given three local men a chilly reminder that natural ice and unpredictable weather can create disastrous conditions for skaters, bikers and fishermen alike.

Invermere residents Don Steedman, Jordan Kirk and Robert Madsen have all fallen through the ice in the past two weeks, with Mr. Madsen suffering a badly broken femur and the other two uninjured but shocked by their ordeals.

The first incident took place on Friday, December 30th, after Mr. Madsen was returning from a day of ice fishing at the small fishing shack settlement near the Eddie Mountain Arena.

It was approximately 2:30 p.m. when he decided to return to shore, the 26-year-old told The Pioneer, and he was about 10 feet from land when one foot punched through the shifting ice. As he fell his free leg bent unnaturally, shattering his femur and sending Mr. Madsens body into shock.

It was so quick that when I fell through it seemed like the ice block itself curved in and thats where the hole came open, he said. When I fell in and snapped it I couldnt move. I screamed for a few minutes and I got some help from some other fishermen.

As Mr. Madsen hauled himself out and collapsed in shock on the surface of the ice, the other fishermen called 911 and he was quickly transported to hospital. He is now in East Kootenay Regional Hospital in Cranbrook, unable to work and looking at a long road to recovery.

I had surgery, and then I have to come back in a year for more, he explained. Ill be on crutches for at least six months. I can still remember them picking me up and feeling the broken bone rubbing against my muscle.

Jordan Kirks unplanned polar bear dip occurred on Friday, January 6th, while he was skating on Lake Windermere in the Timber Ridge area.

Mr. Kirk, who co-owns Crazy Soles running and yoga store, had gone out from Kinsmen Beach for a skate and was on his way back from Windermere at around 4:30 p.m. when he crested a small ridge in the ice and plunged up to his neck in frigid water, he recounted.

I was about 15 feet off the beach. The ice on the edge of the hole I made was cracking a bit and it was slippery because it was all wet, but I got sort of level like I was swimming and after two big kicks I came out like a penguin, Mr. Kirk said.

He didnt touch the bottom, but didnt try, Mr. Kirk explained, as all he could think about was to get out as quickly as possible. Luckily a family was watching him skate from the beach, and immediately offered him their vehicle to warm up in and a ride home. Mr. Kirk is now fully recovered from his experience and suffered no injuries.

Just one day later a third resident found himself falling through the ice and without the ability to swim ended up in an extremely dangerous situation when he was unable to clamber out of the lake.

Don Steedman was riding his bike on the ice around 2:30 p.m. on Saturday, January 7th when he fell through a weak spot into what he estimates to be around 15 feet of water. Due to the depth of the water and his inability to swim he became the subject of a collaborative rescue effort involving members of the public and emergency responders.

After plunging into the water, he clung desperately to the edge of the ice and called for help, Mr. Steedman recalled, catching the attention of Windermere resident Elaine Johnson, who was out walking her dog. Ms. Johnson remembers seeing Mr. Steedman out of the corner of her eye as she watched some youngsters play hockey, when all of a sudden he disappeared.

I remember wondering where he had gone as he wasnt travelling that fast. Thats when he popped out of the water and my heart started thumping.

Ms. Johnson took her dogs leash and started calling to the hockey players to bring their sticks and phone for help.