Man’s body found in nearby Salmon Lake

On Monday, February 22, Maine game wardens recovered the remains of an adult male from Salmon Lake in North Belgrade. The body found is presumed to be that of Derek Palange, a Belgrade man who had been missing since January. Palange was last seen the night of January 9, riding into the woods on his three-wheeler after getting into a fight with his girlfriend. He was reported missing to the Maine State Police two days later, after he never returned home. Warden Ethan Buuck said ice conditions in Maine were not safe around the time Palange disappeared.

Wardens went to the lake after fisherman Keith Cole of Oakland spotted the wheels of an All Terrain Vehicle (ATV) protruding from ice in the lake near the boat landing off Spaulding Point Road around noon on Sunday. Cole said his 10-year-old nephew first spotted the ATV tires, he thought  it was a fish. Cole said he looked more closely and saw that it was actually an upside down  ATV  breaking through from underneath the ice.  35 feet away from the ATV. John MacDonald noted that  a pair of boots frozen into the ice had also been spotted.

Warden Buuck investigated the situation on Sunday and scheduled a dive investigation for Monday morning. “There was no sense in rushing it,” he told The Portland Press Herald on Monday. Wardens first cut the Yamaha three-wheeler out of the ice using chainsaws. Divers from the warden service also started searching the area at 8 a.m. on Monday and recovered the body at 10:40 A.M., according to MacDonald. The body was found in 28 feet of water.

When Palange was first reported missing on January 11, game wardens conducted an airplane flyover of the whole area, but found nothing. The lake was covered with a thick layer of black ice at the time, Warden Sgt. Terry Hughes explained. Although wardens do not know for sure how the ATV got into the lake, they do know that the ice on Salmon Lake was dangerously thin at the time of Palange’s disappeared. With the late winter and varying temperatures Maine experienced this year, ice was slow to develop. Even in early January the ice was still too thin in many places to be able to safely take a vehicle on it. Buuck told The Portland Press Herald that “the ice definitely was not safe at the time this individual went missing.”

Palange’s tragic death is a reminder of the dangers of thin ice in harsh Maine winters, particularly when it comes to riding vehicles onto ice. Palange is survived by many family members, including his mother, sister, brother, and three children.

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