Roddickton resident Earl Pilgrim said the Department of Environment and Conservation needs to look into similar outerwear to what some other outdoor patrol officers use, including built-in floatation devices that not only keep officers warm, but also afloat in the event they fall through ice.
Howard Lavers fell through the ice on his snowmobile while on patrol near Hawke’s Bay.
Port Saunders RCMP, the RCMP Underwater Recovery Team and Fish and Wildlife enforcement officers successfully recovered his body shortly before 5 p.m. Friday.
The body was transported to the Rufus Guinchard Health Centre in Port Saunders.
No autopsy is planned.
At the time of the incident, Lavers was with two other officers who made it off the ice but, in spite of their efforts, they could not save him.
“There are snowmobile suits with (floatation devices) in the legs that inflate in the water and keeps the person afloat,” said Pilgrim. “I think it’s something that the government is going to have to get involved with (for Fisheries and Wildlife officers).”
Pilgrim said it is unfortunate that it takes a tragedy for change to happen, but with Lavers’ death he hopes action may be taken to review how patrolling officers are outfitted so incidents like these do not happen again.
A department official confirmed that officers are issued suitable survival gear, but could not comment on what Lavers may have been using at the time of the accident.
“There are snowmobile suits with (floatation devices) in the legs that inflate in the water and keeps the person afloat.I think it’s something that the government is going to have to get involved with (for Fisheries and Wildlife officers).” - Earl Pilgrim, former fisheries and wildlife officer
The three men were riding over the ice on Eastern Blewy Pond, near Blue Mountain, on snowmobiles Thursday afternoon. Two of the officers made it to shore but Lavers fell through. The other officers tried spreading tree branches on the ice so they could crawl to Lavers, but they could not get to their fellow officer in time.
Pilgrim, who now works as a writer, has been retired since 1995. He said there could be an environmental factor to the incident.
“Usually that’s perfect ice to travel on,” he said. “In the last few years there are holes opening up that people don’t know about and it’s a lot more dangerous. There’s something strange happening here — lakes have holes in the middle of them that they never had before.”
A search and rescue helicopter out of Gander was involved in the search, and air and ground searches were completed Wednesday night.
Minister of Justice Darin King said he was saddened to hear of Lavers’ death, and offered condolences to the officer’s family, calling him a “respected member of the community who will be dearly missed.”
Other phone calls to Lavers’ family were not returned Friday. Pilgrim said Lavers was aggressive in his work and called him “a fine fellow, who was easy to get along with.”