NEW CUMBERLAND, Pa. — First responders are warning the public about rivers and other waterways that appear to freeze over this winter.
Members of the New Cumberland River Rescue team say the ice may look like a place to play, but a lot of danger lies beneath it.
“This is not a playground by any means for kids, families, anyone who wants to play on the ice, just don't do it, it's just not safe,” said Matt Stoner, commander of New Cumberland River Rescue.
While winter enthusiasts may think waterways like the Susquehanna River are big, shiny sheets of ice, Stoner says there's no way to tell just how thick that ice really is.
“The water is flowing underneath there so there is a current and the river actually is up to a higher level when the ice freezes over,” he explained.
Members of New Cumberland River Rescue were out Sunday morning on the Susquehanna, practicing their ice rescue response.
“Hypothermia will set in quick. You go through that ice and you don't have long,” said Stoner.
Stoner explains it's a situation that’s just as dangerous for the first responders who get called out to save those who fall in.
“Getting to the river is a challenge, as you see, it's a sheet of ice. It's hard for our guys to just walk on it without falling,” said Stoner.
During Sunday’s training, the team’s captain got a firsthand feel for what conditions are like beneath the ice.
“Once I got through, the current was extremely strong underneath and if I wasn't holding on from the top there's a chance I could have gone under the ice,” said Parker Beatty, captain of New Cumberland River Rescue.
His message to the public? If you don't have to be on a frozen waterway this winter--don't be.
“It puts everyone, including yourself, at risk. Obviously, it takes us awhile to get out there and it's dangerous for everyone involved,” said Beatty.