Father And Son Fall Through Ice On Grafton's Lake Ripple

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A father and his son were rescued from Lake Ripple Sunday afternoon.
A father and his son were rescued from Lake Ripple Sunday afternoon. Photo Credit: Richard Price

GRAFTON, Mass. -- A father and his son were rescued late Sunday afternoon when their snowmobile fell through Lake Ripple behind Bernard Road.

Michael Vento, 38, and his son, Colby, 10, were treated first on the scene and then at UMass Memorial Medical Center for hypothermia, according to Grafton Police.  The family said they were later released. 

According to Grafton Police they responded to an ice rescue call  at 5:28 p.m. from Jessica Zaleski of Logan Road, when she and her husband, Roger, discovered the father and son had fallen through while riding on the icy lake with their snowmobile.

"The Zaleskis saved these people's lives," said Grafton Police Chief Normand A. Crepeau, Jr. "Had they not called, they would still be under the water right now. Everyone did a tremendous job on this rescue, but we wouldn't have known about it if they didn't call."

Jennifer Germain, the wife and mother of the victims, said in a telephone interview that her husband and son went for a quick spin before planning to return to watch the Super Bowl. 

According to Germain, as they were returning, the snowmobile fell through, submerging them both. The police said they were about 50 feet from the shore.

She said they were in the icy water for approximately 10 minutes until they were rescued by police and fire units. In her account, she said her husband was fully submerged while struggling to keep his half-submerged son on the ice surface.

"Dad, please don't let me die," Colby screamed to his father, according to Germain.

According to Grafton Police, when Officer Daniel Wenc arrived on the scene, he saw Roger Zaleski halfway out on the ice trying to reach the victims. Wenc retrieved a life ring buoy and rope rescue device from his cruiser and with the help of Grafton Fire Department Deputy Chief Michel Mills, firefighter Brett Mills, and Zaleski, saved the boy.  

The police said firefighter Mills went further out on the ice in an attempt to rescue the father who could not pull himself out of the water. 

The police said Mills and other personnel who arrived at the scene located a canoe on the shoreline and used it to finally pull Michael Vento from the water and into a waiting ambulance. Father and son were treated for hypothermia at the scene and then transported to UMass Memorial Medical Center. 

"Thank God we have a great department," Germain said referring to the police, fire, and emergency medical service units. 

Grafton Police Chief, Normand A. Crepeau, Jr. cautioned, in his weekly column published Jan. 24, that residents need to take precautions when on frozen open water.  "This winter, the temperatures continue to fluctuate above and below freezing making ice conditions very uncertain," he said. "Due to the uncertainty, many towns will not sanction the safety of lakes, ponds, streams or rivers that have frozen over."

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Comments (12)

Somewhere there's a fish showing off his new Artic-Cat, sweet!

CBS Boston's website has a video with a picture of the sled and it's a Yamaha SRX 700.
If it was an Arctic Cat it might not have gone under. I have seen people on Cat's ride up to open water at 10-15 mph, break through the ice and ride over 100-150 ft of open water and back onto the ice in Grafton.

Sorry, Commoncents, but I live in the real world, where:
1. Everyone is ok.
2. The police chief warned just a week ago that the ice isn't safe: http://grafton.dailyvoice.com/opinion/chiefs-column-beware-ice-grafton-lakes
3. A dad endangered his own life and that of his son by driving his skimobile onto the ice of a lake with an active outlet (which means that in essence, all the water in the lake is moving year-round.
4. There are limited resources and those squandered on people who put themselves unnecessarily at risk may not be available to help someone who really needs them.

The Chief of Police didn't say the ice isn't safe, he said "the temperatures continue to fluctuate above and below freezing making ice conditions very uncertain". The article also says "many towns will not sanction the safety of lakes". I don't think any public official will ever tell the public the ice is safe because they can't afford the liability.

When I drove by Lake Ripple at 2:00 Sunday and saw at least 30 people ice fishing and skating. The majority of ice safety charts say that ice needs to be 4" for ice fishing and 5" for snowmobiles. He could have just assumed the ice was safe because people were out on the ice. It's possible he asked people who were on the ice how thick it was, we don't know that do we? It's not as if it's uncommon to see snowmobiles on Lake Ripple, I have done it myself. Do you really think he would have taken his son with him if he thought they were in danger of going through the ice.

Maybe he could have been a little better prepared with some ice safety picks or had some sort of plan since he had a child with him. But you want him to pay for the rescue? They were only in the water for 10 minutes. It took the officers or firefighters that responded less than 10 minutes to save two lives and you think their time was squandered. I don't think that the towns police and fire departments are stretched thin where making this rescue was an issue. I could see if this were the second time Mr. Vento did this or 5 others had gone through the ice and needed rescue this year but that's not the case. There are many calls the police and fire department respond to that are due to actions of the caller. The one you want to charge for is the one that saves two lives in less that ten minutes?

I am very glad this father & son are safe. Thank goodness for curious
kind-hearted people like the Zaleski's.

I can't believe some of these comments A father and his son could of died and some clown is writing he should be charged for it. If the town started doing things like that there would be a ton of people being charged for services. How many fires are started by a bad decision or mistake? How many accidents happen due to the same thing? Perhaps if you are so perfect and never make mistakes you could give a seminar in town to everyone who is not as smart as yourself. I would love to learn how to live my life without ever making another mistake or having a lapse of judgement.

When people make stupid decisions in the White Mountains and need rescuing, they receive a bill for the cost of the rescue. Why should taxpayers have to foot the bill for someone's foolish actions? This wasn't an accident--it was the result of carelessness and arrogance. There's plenty of places to snowmobile in East Grafton that aren't on top of a body of water.

Where are these places in East Grafton that are open to snowmobilers? i.e. open to public
How is the snow cover there?

I am glad they are safe as well. Is there a snowmobile at the bottom of the lake now leaking gas ? who is responsible for the costs to get it out ?

I grew up on the lake in Millbury and we had similar experiences to those that Graftonbadboy mentions with snowmobiles- we'd spend all day clearing the ice with shovels for neighborhood skating, and a few snowmobiles would come through the slush later, and by the next day, the tracks were frozen and the ice ruined. I wish they were more considerate.

Still though, I'm really glad that Mr Vento and his son Colby are safe. What a terrifying experience for both father and son.

I am very glad that both father and son are doing well.

Every year we have snowmobile riders on Lake Ripple, and every year they ruin the ice... there should be no more snowmobiles on Lake Ripple!! Stick to dry land.