Son’s fall through ice prompts warning from Winnipeg family

WINNIPEG — A family outing over the weekend turned into a rescue after a teenage boy fell through river ice.

It’s an experience he and his family are sharing to alert others of the potential danger.

Nolan Card, 14, was out for a walk with his family in John Bruce Park when he broke through the ice.

“At first it was, what happened?” Card recalled. “And then I saw like every single movie where people fall in the ice, every single piece of advice just went through my head super fast.”

Days later skiers glided over the same frozen section of the Seine River where it happened, a surface heavily marked with footprints and ski tracks.

Card fell in within seconds of his younger sister seeing a patch of grey ice and their mom Niki Card urging her to stay away.

“We didn’t realize we were doing something that would be considered unsafe and there were so many people just that afternoon,” said Niki. “There was another family right near us when he went through.”

Panicking and with water up to his waist, Nolan said he tried to get out on his own but the ice around him kept breaking.

His dad Loren who was nearby pulled his son to safety without breaking through himself.

“Things were mostly okay but you think about, ‘well, what do we do next,’ said Loren. “And so luckily I extended my hand and he was able to grab it and step out.”

Christopher Love, the Lifesaving Society of Manitoba’s Water Smart and safety management coordinator, said ice conditions may be inconsistent this season. He said it’s due to temperature fluctuations, sunshine, as well as snow and wind which all interfere with ice formation.

“From the society’s point of view, our basic message is stay off of the ice right now because we can’t guarantee it’s going to be safe anywhere,” said Love.

Love said if you decide to go on the ice you should be prepared to fall in to frigid water, so it’s a good idea to wear a buoyant snowmobile suit. If you don’t have one, use a piece of gear more associated with open water activities.

“You add to your winter safety gear, it might be you wear the same life jacket you wear in the summer when you’re out in the boat,” Love recommended.

He said you should also carry ice picks, poles and rope.

While it only provides a snapshot of a location, Love said you should also measure the thickness of the ice before venturing out.

It should be at least 10 centimetres or four inches thick for walking or skiing, double that if you you’re going to be taking a small vehicle out on the ice, according to the Lifesaving Society.

As for Nolan, he warmed up, dried off and is doing well.

Going through the ice is something he doesn’t want to experience again but he’s certainly not alone.

So far this season The Winnipeg Fire Paramedic Service has responded to 260 water or ice rescue calls. That’s up from 152 last season.

The Lifesaving Society said Manitoba averages two to three water-related fatalities each year.

The City of Winnipeg advises that all waterways in the community should be considered dangerous and it said retention ponds are never safe for winter use.

“Water from snowmelt or nearby water main breaks can drain into retention ponds,” the city said in an email. “This water is often mixed with street salts, which can cause ice to melt and thin unevenly. This water enters retention ponds from underneath the ice, resulting in thinning of ice that can’t be seen from the surface.” 

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