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Thin ice claims fisherman

The shore of Hartwig Lake in Groveland Township. Photo by Patrick McAbee. (click for larger version)
January 02, 2013 - Groveland Twp.-A little after 1 p.m. Tuesday, Oakland County Sheriff's divers recovered the body of a 63-year-old ice fisherman from Rose Township in approximately 12 feet of water in Hartwig Lake.

Donald Earl Thorpe drowned after he went through about an inch of ice approximately 200 feet from shore.

Township Fire Chief Steve McGee said Thorpe headed out on the ice of the small lake located about a quarter of a mile south of Groveland Road during the morning hours of Dec. 31. When he did not return home about 5 p.m., Ken Thorpe, the brother of the victim, ventured out on the ice of Hartwig Lake.

"Ken could see some of the icefishing gear on the ice and a hole where the ice was broken," said McGee. "The brother walked out there and went through the ice, too; however, he was wearing a flotation device. He managed to get out of the water."

McGee said the township fire department was contacted by Ken about 5:45 p.m. on Monday.

"We contacted the Oakland County dive team and a helicopter from the sheriff's department," he said. "Before the team arrived members of the township fire department entered the water with floating survival suits and were searching for the victim in about 12 feet of water. We then used thermal imaging cameras around the pond and lights from the helicopter to see if by chance the victim had made it out of the pond and was on shore. There were a lot of tree limbs and brush in the water and around the lake."

The Atlas Township Fire Department also responded to the scene with an all-terrain vehicle to assist in the recovery due to the remoteness and rough terrain.

"We estimated the ice was about an inch to two inches thick at the time," added McGee. "The ice conditions were very hazardous."

Due to weather conditions the search was called off on Monday night by Sgt. Hatfield, Oakland County dive team commander. At approximately 8 a.m. Tuesday morning the search resumed. Private property near the lake was used as a command center for the search.

According to sheriff reports, as divers neared the hole where the victim entered the water they fell through. The divers swam under the ice to the original hole location. An aluminum boat transported by line tenders was also utilized.

The robotic operated vehicle was put into use and with live feed video along with sonar Donald Thorpe was found under the ice.

The sheriff's office again wants to remind people that no ice in Oakland County can be considered safe especially this early in the winter season.

"Ice fisherman everywhere are very excited when the ice first forms," McGee said. "Please check ice thickness first before venturing out."

According to the Oakland County Sheriff's Office a minimum of five inches of ice is needed for general use. Do not go out on the ice alone.

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