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View Full Version : Northern CA Skater Fell Through Lake Ice

01-29-2007, 04:50 PM
George Sommerdorf, Jr., died last Friday while skating on Donner Lake in Northern California. He fell through the ice and no one could help him.

He skated at our rink once in a great while. He was a very private person. I didn't even know he had a daughter and sister. Apparently, he skated quite a bit on frozen ponds up in the Northern CA foothills/mountains. He was experienced in the venue, yet still, this happened to him. It was 40 degrees that day, and it appears certain portions of the lake ice became thinner.

The article in our regional paper said he first started skating when he was three. I believe it. On the few occasions I saw him, I recognized right away that he'd skated for a long time. George definitely was a unique person, quite different, and "marched to the beat of a different drummer." We all got a kick out of him when he was around.

I just want to say something for him in a venue where other skaters can appreciate perhaps how talented he was. This was a man who skated on figure skates, hockey skates, AND speed skates. AND three foot stilts with figure blades on the ends. I know, it sounds bizarre, and I wouldn't have believed it unless I'd seen it with my own eyes, and I did! He could jump and spin in his hockey skates, had amazing deep edges and great flow and speed. He could also do waltz jumps on his speed skates. Now *there* is a skater for you!

Anyway....should any of you be out on ponds, rivers, or lakes, please, please, PLEASE make sure you know if it is frozen solid.

01-29-2007, 05:50 PM
Oh, how very sad! I've always been afraid of pond skating for just that reason. FWIW, Axel Paulson invented the eponymous jump in speed skates, so one might say that George Sommerdorf, Jr. was doing Axels in their purest form.

01-30-2007, 03:49 AM
Oh how sad!!! :cry: I saw him skate once at a local rink.. and was in awe of how he could make it all look easy!

01-30-2007, 09:17 AM
That's so sad. Prayers and hugs for his family.

For those of you who want to try lake/pond skating, please make sure the ice is thick enough. Most Parks departments put up signs and/or fly banners to show if the ice is okay for skating. A red flag means "NO", green means "GO." Never go skating alone! If you hear a crack, lay down and spread out on the ice, then belly slide for the edge.

If you see anyone in trouble, first call for help.

Then, look for a ladder or hook that is usually nearby. (Unless they've been stolen. Grrr.) You slide it out to the stranded person and s/he can belly-slide along to lay flat on the ice. Then, the weight is distributed and you can help pull them to safety.

Stilt skating - you made me smile and think of Fritz Dietl, a wonderful man who passed away a few years ago. He also did stilt skating in his youth.

<ETA: Here are some "Thin Ice" safety tips (http://www.redcross.ca/print.asp?id=015897) from the Canadian Red Cross.>

01-30-2007, 06:32 PM
That is really sad to hear. My dog fell through the ice once, but we were able to get him out. It was really scary- I can't imagine if it were a person.

Stilt skating - you made me smile and think of Fritz Dietl, a wonderful man who passed away a few years ago. He also did stilt skating in his youth.

Not to hijack, but Fritz Dietl was my coach's coach. I think it's a great legacy and honor to his memory for her to be passing on his wisdom to me and her other students.

01-31-2007, 08:09 AM
I am very sorry to hear of this man's death. He sounds like he was a wonderful person and great skater. I do think of this whenever I set foot on frozen pond. When I was at the Rideau Canal 10 yrs ago, a tractor that was used to clean the ice fell through the lake. A lot of ppl drive trucks out onto frozen lakes to ice fish. Ice has to be really thick.

Miss your journal, Janet!


01-31-2007, 03:30 PM
Sad story.

I will get on my soapbox for a little and say that no one should be on a frozen pond under any condition unless it has been certified by someone like your local public recreation department, etc. And if you must be on a frozen pond for whatever reason then don't do it alone and not without some sort of emergency plan.

01-31-2007, 03:38 PM
How awful. My thoughts are with those he left behind.

And to those of you who skate on frozen ponds, please be very careful.