BYRAM TOWNSHIP, NJ - Fire trucks turned on their lights and sirens as they entered the path road to Panther Lake this past Sunday for an ice rescue drill.
Fire Departments and rescue squads from Byram Township along with its surrounding neighbors, Netcong Borough, Stanhope Borough, Sparta Township, Budd Lake, and Jefferson Township, were all present for the duration of the drill.
Four “rescuers” from Byram trailed across the ice in an attempt to save the five Netcong “victims” who had fallen through the ice.
The deepest part of Panther Lake is estimated to be at least 60 feet, and certainly not a body of water a person would like to venture on this time of year.
Every person present watches as the first victim is successfully pulled out of the ice with ropes as he lay on a board to reach a safety location.
“We try to have at least one drill a year,” said Netcong Fire Chief, Bill Koster. “It depends if it is cold enough for there to be ice.”
Koster then explained that in this particular scenario, “Netcong acts as victims while Byram, Budd Lake, Stanhope and Sparta are all on the scene. Jefferson is here with their dive team.”
Chuck Putz, Fire Chief from Byram stood next to his department vehicle as he received a full report on the victims through a walkie talkie.
Jefferson, on the scene with their rescue squad, confirmed how many saves there were, and how many people still out in the water.
Rescue teams from each town took turns to venture out on to the ice to locate the remaining victims under water.
The process of a grid search then started shortly after Sparta's and Budd Lake’s rescue teams headed onto the ice.
The purpose of a grid search is to break up the area to search and locate a victim.
“We put a submerged dummy in the water,” said Putz. “Jefferson Township dive team will then search for the victim."
A voice was patched through to Putz who then verified, “Thirty minutes on the ice and 45 minutes into the incident.”
“We bring them out to a safe location and then they are assessed by the squad,” said John Dimino and Mike Rafferty, members of the Byram rescue team.
“We are the Township of Lakes,” Putz continued. "We train as often as we can.”
Putz then reflected on the tragedy in Budd Lake just three weeks prior, when two 15-year-old boys, Nicholas Cianciotto and Clyde Schimanski, who both perished after they fell into the waters of Budd Lake while ice fishing.
“It is always good to have a refresher course,” said Putz.
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