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April 24. 2014 8:59PM

Warning about polar plunge came too late

LANCASTER — For Fish and Game Conservation Officer Glen Lucas, April 14 will be a date he remembers for a long time. It was the day his warning about the “polar plunge” was made public, but it is also the same day it claimed its first victim.

A nearly seven-year veteran of Fish and Game, Lucas, 28, often searches through social media and web sites — Facebook and Craigslist, among others — looking for what he calls “opportunities of enforcement.”

Lucas was on Facebook in early April when he connected to some people he knew, and subsequently their children, too.

On a Facebook page of one of the children, Lucas saw a video of a youth he knew jumping into a frigid area pond, with the boy, first, however, “nominating” five other people to do the same.

Recognizing one of the names, Lucas scrolled down the page to another video, showing two teenage girls clad only in swimsuits standing in front of Garland Brook in East Lancaster where, before entering the water, they said they had been “nominated” and in turn were nominating 10 others.

Both girls slipped on ice, Lucas recalled and both, he added, “came close to getting pushed into the current.”

Lucas said he wanted to prevent tragedies from the polar plunge challenge so he began working on a press release warning about the plunge.

Two days before the release went out to the media, Fish and Game learned that up to 100 youths in Colebrook were planning to plunge into the Connecticut River; that situation was diffused by Colebrook Police.When the release went public April 14, Lucas was contacted during the day by two students at White Mountains Regional High School in Whitefield, both of whom said they saw his warning and decided to heed it and caution their friends.Around 10:30 p.m. that same day, just as he was getting ready to go to sleep, Lucas said he got a call from his boss, Capt. John Wimsatt, who said, “Kudos for getting the press release out but sadly, we’ve got our first victim.”The victim, later identified as 32-year old Aaron Hoyt, of Northfield, had gone with friends to Profile Falls on the Smith River in Bristol to participate in the polar plunge. His body was recovered last Sunday.

Prior to getting the call from Wimsatt, “I was excited that we possibly saved some lives,” said Lucas, but the happiness was very brief.Lucas speculated that while the “nominating” portion of the polar plunge challenge came from a drinking game he’s seen before on Facebook, the plunge part was probably an evolution from the many polar plunges non-profit groups hold during the winter and early spring as fundraisers.The plunge and challenge combined, Lucas said, is new in his experience and seems to be particular to New Hampshire, although there have been similar reports in Vermont.Lucas believes peer pressure and financial pressure drove some people to plunge, recounting that the local boy he initially watched jump into a pond did so because he didn’t have the money to cover his not jumping.The going rate for being “nominated” to plunge and not plunging was $50, said Lucas.jkoziol@newstote.com


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