LAKEWOOD - Police say an Ashville man who fell through the ice on Chautauqua Lake on Sunday was lucky to escape serious injury.
Police said James Ray, 59, of Ashville was 30 feet off the shore when he fell through the ice around 3 p.m. Sunday. Officers from the Lakewood-Busti Police Department and firemen from the Lakewood Fire Department were dispatched to the shore near East Terrace Avenue.
Sgt. Paul Gustafson of the Lakewood-Busti Police Department said Ray, who was on the lake for an unknown reason, was able to get himself ashore before first responders arrived. The Ashville resident was shaken up and treated at the scene, but declined further medical assistance, Gustafson said.
"I think he was extremely lucky," Gustafson said. "It seems this time of the year we're always going out there for this. Nothing changes."
There also were reports in the town of Ellery that someone riding their snowmobile had partially fallen through the ice. Two sources have said the snowmobile had fallen through, but not the rider. No further information was available from the Chautauqua County Sheriff's Office.
"The ice is just not safe. I don't know how else to say it," said Undersheriff Charles Holder.
County fire officials, meanwhile, are warning residents to stay off Chautauqua Lake. With a lack of ice pack and temperatures routinely above freezing, the possibility of falling through the ice increases.
"With the winter we are having and the low ice pack it's just dangerous," said Dan Imfeld, Chautauqua County deputy fire coordinator. "Given the temperatures and thaw cycle, it's not a good idea."
He added: "You can be in a lot of danger if you fall through."
Aaron Reynolds, meteorologist with the National Weather Service, Buffalo office, said the dangers of hypothermia while in the water can occur within minutes. And with water temperatures around 32 degrees, shock also poses a risk, Reynolds said.
"Hypothermia can set in very, very rapidly, especially if you happen to fall into a lake," he said. "If you're able to get out, you want to get out of those wet clothes and dry off as fast as possible."