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Three vehicles stranded in NWT Christmas ice madness

Where they’re going, they probably needed roads.

No fewer than three vehicles had to be hauled off the ice during a chaotic Christmas for Yellowknife police, rental car firms and towing companies.

In one incident on Christmas Eve, two tourists took a rented Ford Explorer all the way out to the very edge of Yellowknife Bay before stranding the car 10 km south of Dettah, near Ruth Island.

“I was a little shocked,” DJ Clark, the owner of DJ’s Towing in Yellowknife, told Moose FM. Clark says his company dealt with all three incidents.

“They took a new Ford Explorer, with 16 kilometres on it, out on the big lake,” he added.

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“They went out by the Dettah road, around the barricade and there are snowmobile tracks there. They had no idea what a car track or snowmobile track looks like – they just followed the tracks.”

Ruth Island
Map showing location of Ruth Island. (Google Earth)

As the time approached 10pm, RCMP on snowmobiles were scrambled in the bitter cold of Christmas Eve to rescue the tourists.

Constable Jack Keefe told Northern News Services the two “were getting very cold when rescuers arrived”.

It’s not clear where the tourists had travelled from to visit Yellowknife. Moose FM understands they had rented their SUV from Budget. The company’s Yellowknife manager, Barry Newman, declined to comment.

The tourists were by no means alone over the Christmas period.

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Clark’s towing business also pulled a vehicle rented by American tourists off the Yellowknife River earlier this week.

Stranded car
Stranded car on Yellowknife River. Photo: DJ’s Towing

“They went down off the boat lunch,” he said. “They were from out of town, they rented a car and didn’t know where they were going.

“They saw the snowmobile tracks close to the shoreline and thought it was the road.

“We had another one out at Vee Lake Road, the same thing. Pulled out onto a lake, saw the snowmobile tracks and thought they could drive out there.”

Clark uses a modified Jeep to rescue vehicles stranded on the ice.

“It’s risky but the Jeep is pretty good and I know the area good, with being here 25 years,” he said. “I know what I can and can’t do.

“We get a few of these each year, but it seems to be a worse this year. The weather’s a little warmer.”

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The Dettah ice road is not yet open. Driving on the ice road until it officially opens remains illegal.

The road is forecast to open some time next week, around two weeks later than the average so far this century.

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