An $80K Truck Through The Ice at Pontoon Lake

A man sunk his $80,000 Ford F350 diesel truck into Pontoon Lake, about 26 km northeast of Yellowknife, yesterday.

He was driving near the Pontoon Lake boat launch when the ice gave way. The man, who  informed residents along the lake of the incident last night, said he managed to get out of the 2012 truck with his dogs and walk to safety as the truck sank. He said he informed the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, as well as the RCMP.

According to Francois Rossouw, who lives on Pontoon Lake and biked out to the site last night, the truck was visible, about 15 feet down, partially sunk into the sediment at the bottom of the lake. There was no sign, at the time, that fuel was leaking from the vehicle.

All around the truck-sized hole the ice was about 10 inches to a foot thick, said Rossouw, though it was clearly rotten ice.

“It’s candled ice. Imagine a gazillion candle sticks, it’s not a solid mass.”

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Because of the ice conditions, it’s going to be a challenge getting a tow truck out to the spot.

“I was thinking about it. If you had large mats to disperse the weight, that might work. But the ice is so rotten it probably wouldn’t hold,” said Rossouw. In a few weeks the ice will be gone and perhaps a barge could be brought to the spot to crane the truck out. “But getting a barge out there [onto Pontoon lake], oh my god!”

The last time a truck went through the ice on Pontoon Lake, back in 1999, Garth Wallbridge had the benefit of it being November, when the lake ice was still forming. He waited about two months for the ice to thicken, then got Age Automotive to haul it out with a tow truck.

“We used a tow truck with a moveable deck. They put the deck up as a sloping ramp and attached a cable to the truck, sliding up the ramp,” he says.

Wallbridge’s truck didn’t survive the ordeal, mostly because the electronics were fried, and it had to be sold off for scrap. At least his insurance company covered the costs of retrieving it, which came in at around $4,000.

According to Judy Mclinton, manager of communications with ENR, people whose trucks fall through the ice are on the hook for hauling costs and any cleanup.

“It’s a polluter, and we have polluter-pays policy,” she said. “Same as any spill.”

It’s unclear if the man will be able to get his insurance company to cover the cost. “It depends on the coverage they have,” explained Rosa Thomson, an insurance broker at Calgary’s Dejong’s Insurance.

“I would think that the insurance company would cover it, possibly under collision. I may be wrong. Different companies have different ways of covering people and it depends on the circumstances.”


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