January 3, 2013

Snowmobilers lost when they plunged into Rangeley Lake, friend says

By Craig Crosby ccrosby@centralmaine.com
Staff Writer

A trio of snowmobilers missing since Sunday were lost and trying to find their way with a mother and teenage son they met at an area restaurant, according to a close family friend of the missing men.

click image to enlarge

OPEN WATER: A huge area of open water on Rangeley Lake can be seen several hundred yards from the shore where up to four snowmobilers may have died after breaking through the ice last Sunday. Strong winds have produced conditions that keep the ice from freezing.

Staff photo by David Leaming

Additional Photos Below

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Maine snowmobile deaths

2011-2012: 5
2010-2011: 4
2009-2010: 3
2008-2009: 8
2007-2008: 12
2006-2007: 6
2005-2006: 7
2004-2005: 7
2003-2004: 7
2002-2003: 16*
*Most fatalities in one year since records were kept beginning in 1970.

Source: Maine Warden Service

The search for 43-year-old Glenn Henderson, of Sabattus; his cousin, 40-year-old Kenneth Henderson, of China; and friend John Spencer, 41, of Litchfield, continued to be delayed Wednesday by extreme cold and wind. Maine Warden Service officials said divers have recovered helmets and gloves, suggesting all three men plunged into Rangeley Lake on Sunday night, and they are presumed dead.

That evidence was found during a separate search for Dawn Newell, 45, of Yarmouth, whose body was recovered Monday morning. Wardens have said Newell was riding on the lake with her 16-year-old son Sunday night when they both drove into open water. The boy managed to jump from his snowmobile onto solid ice before his machine sank, and he called 911 for help.

Wardens initially described the incidents as separate accidents, but Missy Morgan, of Lewiston, who developed a close friendship with Glenn Henderson and Spencer while racing with them at Oxford Plains Speedway, said the three men had met Newell and her son at an unspecified area cafe.

"They thought they knew how to get back, as long as they all stuck together," Morgan said, citing a conversation Kenneth Henderson had had with his wife that night. "I don't know what happened after that."

Later, for reasons unknown, Newell and her son went in one direction and the Hendersons and Spencer went another way as they entered an ice-covered cove on the lake.

Morgan said all three men were experienced snowmobilers who had ridden in the area on at least a few other occasions. Wardens have said there were whiteout conditions on the lake Sunday night.

"You couldn't see a foot in front of you," Morgan said. "They probably didn't even realize where they were on the lake or that they were even on the lake."

Kenneth Henderson called his wife at 5:45 p.m., saying they were lost, Morgan said. "That was the last phone call we got from them," she said. The men were reported missing at 2:30 a.m. Monday.

Brian Painchaud, trailmaster for the Sabattus Mountaineers snowmobile club, said Glenn Henderson and Spencer joined the club just a couple of weeks ago. Painchaud had not seen Spencer since graduating from Oak Hill High School with him in 1990. A post on the Mountaineers Facebook page encourages members to pray for the men's safe return.

Wardens have said the men are presumed dead and have told family members that the search is now a recovery effort instead of missing persons search.

"If they didn't fall into the water, with how cold it is, they wouldn't have survived without gear," Morgan said. "They had nothing but their snowmobile outfits and helmets. They didn't have tents or sleeping bags."

Cpl. John MacDonald, spokesman for the Maine Warden Service, on Wednesday declined to confirm any details of Morgan's account.

Historic tragedy

The accident was part of what probably was the worst snowmobile tragedy in state history. Nobody can recall any time when four snowmobile riders were killed in the same place at roughly the same time.

(Continued on page 2)

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Additional Photos

click image to enlarge

DEADLY ACCIDENT: People seen hugging and holding each other approach Maine Warden Service personnel wearing survival suits at the boat launch on Rangeley Lake on Monday. The body of Dawn Newell was recovered earlier in the day after her snowmobile went through the ice Sunday night.

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Photo taken Monday morning of Rangeley Lake.

Photo courtesy of Maine Warden Service

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Staff photo by David Leaming RECOVERY: Maine Warden Service Lt. Kevin Adam, right, on Tuesday, January 1, 2013, speaks about the ongoing recovery of three more snowmobilers who went through the ice on Rangeley Lake in Rangeley last Sunday. Searchers recovered the body of Dawn Newell who also crashed through the ice. At left is MWS spokesman John MacDonald.

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Maine Warden Service personnel return to shore in an airboat on Rangeley Lake on Monday after motoring over ice. Wardens said Dawn Newell's body was recovered Monday after the snowmobile she was riding broke through the ice Sunday night.

click image to enlarge

Photo taken Monday morning of Rangeley Lake.

Photo courtesy of Maine Warden Service


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