RANGELEY — The Maine Warden Service plans to use a remotely operated underwater vehicle to continue the search for the three missing snowmobilers who are believed to have died in Rangeley Lake.

Wardens hoped that the recent record warm weather would reopen a hole in the ice that froze over more than a week and a half ago, said Cpl. John MacDonald.

Wardens now predict that the lake will remain frozen through the winter, and they have moved on to the plan involving the underwater vehicle.

MacDonald did not set a date for when the search would resume.

Wardens are searching for Glen Henderson, 43, of Sabattus; his cousin, Kenneth Henderson, 40, of China; and their friend John Spencer, 41, of Litchfield, who were reported missing Dec. 31 and are presumed dead.

Searchers found helmets and gloves while looking for Dawn Newell, 45, of Yarmouth, who went into the lake on the night of Dec. 30 while snowmobiling with her son. Newell’s body was recovered Dec. 31.

Wardens said Newell and her son, 16, drove into open water. The boy jumped from his snowmobile onto solid ice before his machine sank. He called 911 for help.

In early January, the warden service suspended the search for the three missing men because of frigid temperatures and high wind. Since then, wardens have been monitoring the lake for an opportunity to resume the search.

The wardens now plan to use the underwater vehicle to search where divers believe the missing men are in the lake.

Because of the large area that must be searched and the depth of the lake, MacDonald said sonar is the best method. But wardens cannot use sonar unless there is open water.

Divers will be used when they have specific objects to investigate, MacDonald said.

Sonar used before the search was postponed revealed two, and possibly three, snowmobiles in the lake where the three men are presumed to have gone through the ice, according to MacDonald.

The accident was part of what likely was the worst snowmobile tragedy in state history. No state officials can recall another instance in which four snowmobile riders were killed in the same place at roughly the same time.

Morning Sentinel Staff Writer Kaitlin Schroeder can be contacted at 861-9252 or at: kschroeder@mainetoday.com