Husband, Wife Die After Falling Through Ice In Sullivan County

A husband and wife died while on a fishing trip after falling through thin ice in the region.

Police divers cut a path through the ice to reach the victims.
Police divers cut a path through the ice to reach the victims. Photo Credit: Sullivan County Sheriff's Office

The incident took place in Sullivan County around 8:15 p.m., Monday, Feb. 27 in the hamlet of Loch Sheldrake.

Law enforcement officials became aware when the couple's daughter called the police that day from New York City expressing concern that she could not get in touch with her parents, Viktor Nikitin, age 63, and Svetlana Nikitin, age 70, both of Loch Sheldrake, said Undersheriff Eric Chaboty of the Sullivan County Sheriff's Office.

The Sheriff’s Office asked the Town of Fallsburg Police to check the parents’ residence at Foxcroft Village in Loch Sheldrake. When the Fallsburg Police advised that no one was home, an extensive search of the local area ensued, Chaboty said.

Chaboty said the daughter told officers that her parents may have gone ice fishing at around 1 p.m. Police checked numerous lakes and ponds in the local area during the evening’s intense snowstorm. 

On Tuesday, Feb. 28, around 2:40 a.m., a deputy located the couple’s 2021 Nissan Murano near a pond on Hutrat Road off Route 52 between Loch Sheldrake and Woodbourne. 

Deputies could see ice fishing tip-ups out on the pond but there was no sign of the missing couple. The Loch Sheldrake Fire Department was called to the scene but thin ice prevented rescuers from venturing out onto the pond, Chaboty said.

At daybreak, the Sullivan County Fire Coordinator’s Office responded with equipment to facilitate the search. Sheriff’s deputies used a drone to inspect the pond and spotted an area of open water near the tip-ups, he added.

Chaboty said the New York State Police divers responded and recovered two bodies that were submerged in about 10 feet of water approximately 100 feet from the shore. 

The two victims were identified as the missing couple and both were pronounced dead at the scene by the Sullivan County Coroner's Office.

The official cause of death is pending an autopsy. 

Sullivan County Sheriff Mike Schiff said, “the cooperative effort of all agencies brought this tragic event to a timely conclusion despite the extreme weather conditions”. 

The Sheriff reminded residents that, “we have had a stretch of warm weather and the ice on our lakes and ponds is not that thick. Use extreme caution and always let someone know where you are going”.

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