Four fatalities on Alberta waterways over Christmas break, three from one family: RCMP

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Unseasonably warm weather and unpredictable ice are behind four fatalities on Alberta waterways over the Christmas long weekend, say police.

A Calgary man taking photos on Christmas day died after he went through the ice on the Bow River, RCMP said Wednesday.

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Stoney Nakoda RCMP received a call to assist Emergency Medical Services (EMS) and fire rescue after a report that a male was in the water in the Bow River near the Morley Bridge, about 63 km west of Calgary, said RCMP Corp. Troy Savinkoff.

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On a river with fast-moving water, the ice is even less predictable than on a more placid lake, and takes even more time to freeze, Savinkoff said.

The man was dragged under the ice and ended up in the middle of the river, he said.

“Upon arrival, the male was already under the water. An ice rescue team … and a fire department boat was utilized however the individual was not located,” he said.

On Dec. 26, the body of a 61-year-old Calgary man was recovered from the river, Savinkoff said.

“RCMP believe that the victim was taking a photo when they fell through the ice,” he said.

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Family of three dies on Lac Ste. Anne

Days before, on Lac Ste. Anne about 87 km northwest of Edmonton, a familial ATV outing ended tragically when a family of three went through the ice Saturday, Dec.23.

It started as a missing persons file when 39-year-old Kelly Pelsma, his wife, 37-year-old Laura Pelsma, and eight-year-old son Dylan Pelsma didn’t show for a family event on Christmas.

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“We initially received a missing person report about the family, and we were able to determine what they were doing, which was operating that vehicle,” Savinkoff said.

“They had indicated to family they were going to take a ride on the night of Dec. 23.

“Right away the hazard identified this potential, because the ice is known to be thin now,” Savinkoff said.

After he heard about the missing family, local resident Martin Lavoie checked in with a neighbour who has cameras outside his house, and they clocked footage of the family driving by the road in their side-by-side at 6:55 p.m. Saturday.

Lavoie arrived at the area on Alexis First Nation and began to search around the lake about 9:30 p.m. Monday, first discovering a jerry can, and quickly calling the RCMP.

According to Parkland RCMP reports, one of the occupants of the side-by-side ATV was visible at the ice level. The other two were located by divers, Savinkoff said.

The bodies were transported to the medical examiner’s office in Edmonton.

“The deaths of these individuals is certainly not suspicious,” Savinkoff said.

“(The ice) was notably quite thin, it had a skiff of water on top of it,” he said.

Mild winters mean thin ice, Savinkoff added, urging outdoors enthusiasts to wait for colder weather before navigating ice on Alberta’s waterways.

“There are dangers of going out onto ice in any of the waters in Alberta,” Savinkoff said.

“The ice is extremely dangerous now. People should stay off it completely until cooler weather’s come in and you’re able to confirm it’s safe to go onto the ice,” Savinkoff said.

Lac St. Anne is in Edmonton’s cottage country. The Pelsmas were believed to be staying at the lake.

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Four fatalities on Alberta waterways over Christmas break, three from one family: RCMP

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