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Man drowns when vehicle crashes through ice at Fort Peck Lake

Man drowns when vehicle crashes through ice at Fort Peck Lake

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Fort Peck ice

An aerial view of the the Fort Peck dam and ice covering the lake in 2018.

A Rexford man who was ice fishing drowned in Fort Peck Lake after the vehicle he was driving crashed through the ice north of Winnett, officials said.

The incident occurred about 7 p.m. Saturday. Four men who were riding on the ice in two utility terrain vehicles were heading back to the Crooked Creek Marina when they drifted off course and were soon on unsafe ice, Petroleum County Sheriff Bill Cassell posted on Facebook.

One of the UTVs, a Polaris Ranger Side by Side, carrying two men fell through the ice and quickly became submerged. One of the men escaped and the others were able to pull him to safety. The second man was not able to get out and drowned, the sheriff said.

The Winnett Volunteer Fire Department, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Winnett Ambulance and Petroleum County Sheriff’s Office participated in a rescue effort a short time later, along with several fellow sportsmen, Cassell said.

The man’s body was recovered at 11:30 p.m. in what Cassell called “a very dangerous mission.”

“I want to warn all (sportsmen) who plan to icefish on Fort Peck to be very careful of the ice conditions," the sheriff wrote.

The deceased driver has been identified as Roger F. Schaad, 72, of Rexford, formerly of Shepherd, Petroleum County Coroner R.J. "Dick" Brown said. An autopsy is scheduled for Tuesday in Billings with the state Medical Examiner. The investigation is ongoing by the Petroleum County Sheriff and Coroner.

Cassell thanked those who helped with rescue efforts.

“Without all of the brave men and women who answered the call last night this could have turned out much worse than it did,” he said.

Assistant editor Phil Drake can be reached at 406-231-9021.

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