BELGRADE — A body found in Salmon Lake in North Belgrade is presumed to be a man who was reported missing more than a month ago, the Maine Warden Service said Monday.

Maine game wardens recovered a body late Monday morning after a fisherman Sunday reported a three-wheel ATV with one wheel protruding was upside down in the ice, district Warden Ethan Buuck said Monday at the scene.

In a press release Monday, Cpl. John MacDonald from the Maine Warden Service said the body is presumed to be Derek Palange, a Belgrade man missing since Jan. 9. The warden service is waiting for an official identification from the state medical examiner’s office before releasing more information, MacDonald said.

According to the Facebook page Missing in Maine, Palange was last seen the night of Jan. 9 riding into the woods in the area on his three-wheeler after getting into a dispute with his girlfriend.

He was reported missing to the Maine State Police Jan. 11. He is pictured on Facebook with his Yamaha ATV, identical to the one the wardens cut from the ice Monday.

Fisherman Keith Cole of Oakland spotted the wheels of an ATV protruding from ice in the lake near the boat landing off Spaulding Point Road at approximately noon Sunday afternoon. The boat launch is at the southern end of Salmon Lake near the intersection of routes 8 and 11. That end of the lake is also known as Ellis Pond.

Wardens also found a pair of boots frozen into the ice approximately 35 feet from the ATV, MacDonald said.

Divers from the warden service started searching the area at 8 a.m. Monday and recovered the body at 10:40 a.m., according to MacDonald. The body was found in 28 feet of water, he added.

At the boat launch Monday, Cole said his 10-year-old nephew first saw the ATV tires protruding from the ice and thought it was a fish. Cole said he looked more closely and saw the ATV upside down underneath the ice.

“The first thing I did was call the warden,” he said.

Buuck investigated the report Sunday afternoon and scheduled a dive investigation for Monday morning. “There was no sense in rushing it,” he said Monday.

Crews cut the yellow Yamaha ATV out of the ice with chainsaws, he said.

Warden Sgt. Terry Hughes, on Monday, said the service conducted an airplane flyover of the area after Palange was reported missing Jan. 11, but didn’t spot anything. The lake was covered with a layer of black ice at the time, he added.

“We came up empty,” he said.

Although wardens do not know for sure how the ATV went into the lake, Buuck said that the ice on Salmon Lake was dangerously thin at the time Palange disappeared. Ice was slow to develop this winter and in many places was still too thin to take a vehicle on in early January.

“The ice definitely was not safe at the time this individual went missing,” Buuck said.

The ice on the lake was about 6 inches thick on Monday. The Warden Service website suggests ice of at least 5 inches for ATV travel, but also warns that thaws and freezes can make ice unstable.

“The ice always, no matter what time of the year, is a questionable thing,” Buuck said.


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