CAT bulldozer crashes through ice in Rankin

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A hamlet CAT D6T bulldozer was successfully pulled from the water after it crashed through the ice on Williamson Lake on Nov. 15.

Hamlet vehicles block the road as two front-end loaders arrive to try and pull out a hamlet CAT bulldozer that crashed through the ice on Williamson Lake in Rankin Inlet on Nov. 15, 2018. Darrell Greer/NNSL photo
Hamlet vehicles block the road as two front-end loaders arrive to try and pull out a hamlet CAT bulldozer that crashed through the ice on Williamson Lake in Rankin Inlet on Nov. 15, 2018. Darrell Greer/NNSL photo

The lower half of the bulldozer was submerged in the lake for about five-and-a-half hours before being pulled out.

Hamlet senior administrative officer Justin Merritt said he was in a meeting when hamlet employee Troy Aksalnik informed him of the accident at about 9:30 a.m.

He said the airport was borrowing the bulldozer from the hamlet when the accident occurred.

“For some reason the driver … decided to go along Williamson Lake with the bulldozer and I have no idea why,” said Merritt.

Nobody was hurt and workers were able to get it out of the lake with the help of several other companies in town such as Inukshuk Construction and M&T.

“You have to be very careful pulling something like that out. You can’t just hook up a chain and wire. You have to have something to put tension on slowly because if one of those things ever snapped back it would tear somebody right apart.”

Merritt said he trusted his men to get the bulldozer out successfully.

“I got the operator’s report right away and then went to the RCMP and our insurance company with pictures.

“So now we’ll wait for the assessment and see what we’re looking at.”

Merritt said operators do not typically take heavy equipment onto Williamson Lake until January or February when the ice is at its thickest.

“I talked to the operator and he was OK. He was lucky he was on the side that, when it sank to the bottom, he still wasn’t in water in the cab,” he said. “He made a mistake. It’s that simple.”

Andrew Quackenbush, the hamlet’s mechanic, could not be consulted as his wife had just given birth so Merritt had the bulldozer placed in a heated garage to let it thaw.

“(Quackenbush) will look at it when he gets back, but he feels it will be salvageable and the engine should be OK because it’s fresh water in Williamson Lake, not salt water.

“The blade got bent a bit, but I’ll have to wait until Andrew assesses it when he gets back to know the full extent of the damage, but at least it’s out and everyone’s fine.”