RANGELEY, Maine (AP) — The Maine Warden Service suspended its search for three missing snowmobilers Tuesday because of difficult weather conditions while issuing a warning for people to check for thin ice on lakes and ponds in the wake of a deadly start to the snowmobile season.
Cold temperatures and strong winds that created white caps on Rangeley Lake made for unsafe conditions to resume searching for three men believed to have driven the machines into open water in the lake, said Cpl. John MacDonald. He search the search could be resumed using airboats, aircraft and side-scan sonar if weather conditions improved.
Wardens believe the men accidentally rode their snowmobiles into open waters after leaving Carrabassett Valley for a ride together Sunday night. Officials said they found evidence, including helmets in the lake, indicating that’s what happened.
The riders have been identified as 40-year-old Kenneth Henderson, of China; his cousin, 43-year-old Glenn Henderson, of Sabattus; and 41-year-old John Spencer, of Litchfield.
In a separate accident, divers on Monday recovered the body of Dawn Newell, 45, of Yarmouth, who drove her machine into open waters on Rangeley Lake Sunday night. Her 16-year-old son was riding a separate snowmobile behind her and started crashing through the ice, but he was able to jump to safety and make it to shore, officials said.
The Rangeley area is a popular snowmobile destination in a state that has 14,000 miles of trails.
It’s possible the riders became disoriented at night and didn’t see the open water near the center of the lake, said Judy Morton, executive director of the Rangeley Lakes Chamber of Commerce.
‘‘Snowmobiling is a great sport and provides lots and lots of fun,’’ she said. ‘‘But when something like this happens, it affects our entire community.’’