Two men went ice sailing one time too many this season resulting in a multi-town rescue effort Sunday on Sebago Lake.

Tom Childs, 41, of Blake Road in Standish, and George Froehlich, 37, of Portland, were out for an afternoon sail near the Standish Boat Launch when their boat broke through an area of thin ice about 1,800 feet off shore.

“It occurred to us that the ice was thin,” Childs said. “We drilled holes – we used an eight-inch drill and never hit water.”

Childs first took the boat out by himself, making multiple passes across Lower Bay. He and his brother, Bill Childs, had inherited the 1949 Renegade from their father. One of only about a thousand ever made, the boat has special significance for both of them.

Once he was confident in the strength of the ice, Childs picked up Froehlich from the launch, leaving his brother on shore to watch, and they headed out to find the best angle to catch the most wind. But the wind they caught, caught them, blowing them farther from shore than they had ever intended to go.

With the boat’s runners gliding rapidly over the slick surface, the men had no time to avoid the thinning ice. But the boat sank in slow motion, and only partially, giving them time to plan for their safety.

“We just crawled out of the fuselage and got on top of it – sat on it,” Childs said.

They also dropped the sail so the wind wouldn’t jostle them about and dropped the mast for use as a flotation device if they needed it.

When Child’s brother, back on shore, saw they were in trouble, he used his cell phone and called E-911. Gray dispatchers notified the Maine Wardens Service and Fire & Rescue from Standish, Sebago and Gorham.

According to Standish Fire Chief Martin Jordan, the call came in at about 2:30 p.m. Many of the department’s 18 certified water rescue members responded that afternoon complete with wetsuits and ice picks. They used a flat-bottomed, inflatable, rescue boat and more than 1,700 feet of rope to rescue Childs and Froehlich from their precarious perch.

When the wardens arrived, the rescue had been completed, but they took out their airboat to obtain a GIS location in case the boat became completely submerged. The Childs brothers were able to get their boat out later with the help of Maine Yankee Airboats.

Jordan praised the efforts of the rescue team. And he had some stern advice for anyone who might be contemplating a venture onto remaining ice:

“Use common sense,” Jordan said. “The temperatures have risen now and the ice is not safe. Period.”

Childs, who has ice sailed most of his life, says he thinks his level of experience made him “complacent” and got him into “an embarrassing situation.” He’s thankful for the assistance he and his friend received.

“I can’t express my appreciation for their response,” he said. “I was overwhelmed by the quantity of equipment and people who showed up.”

Rescuers come to the aid of two men who went through the ice on Sunday afternoon in the Lower Bay of Sebago Lake.


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