Mostly Trapping

Trapper Obituary: Lee Wiktorski
Mar 8, 2019 20:52 ET
Comments: WESTMINSTER -- A missing ice fisherman whose body was recovered from Vermont's Lake Champlain Wednesday afternoon was a Westminster native.

Lee Wiktorski, 61, of Benson, Vermont, died after his pickup truck fell through the ice Monday.

"He was an avid outdoorsman," said brother Alan Wiktorski, or Westminster. "He loved hunting, fishing, and back in the day, trapping. He always loved the woods."

Lee Wiktorski was born in Gardner on June 6, 1958 and grew up in Westminster, attending Westminster schools and graduating from Oakmont Regional High School in 1977, Alan said.

Wiktorski lived in Westminster for more than 30 years before relocating to Vermont, where he enjoyed the seclusion of the woods and outdoor activities, Alan said.

He left his house in Benson early Monday morning to go ice fishing in Orwell. He never returned, prompting his wife, Marsha, to call the authorities, Alan said.

Wiktorski's tip-ups (used to alert a fisher of a caught fish) and other fishing gear were found on the ice near Singing Cedars Landing, but there was no sign of him or his truck.

State Police, first responders and other authorities undertook an extensive search for Lee, using airboats on the ice, divers under the ice and helicopters above, Alan said.

During an aerial search Tuesday, the crew of a U.S. Customs and Border Protection aircraft spotted an irregularity in the ice near Orwell and neighboring Ticonderoga, New York. About 5 p.m.

, Wiktorski's pickup truck was found submerged under 22 feet of water.
Alan said it was unusual for Lee to have driven so far on the ice.

"He was pretty knowledgeable about Lake Champlain and the water currents around that area. That's not something he would do unless there was an emergency," Alan said. "Where his tip-ups and setup were so far from where they found the truck, we think he might have had a medical emergency and needed to get help."

Wiktorski's body wasn't immediately located. One of the truck's windows was down, meaning he was able to free to himself from the vehicle, Alan said.

The search had to be called off Tuesday due to a snowstorm, and resumed Wednesday around 11 a.m., he said. Wiktorski's body was found a short distance away around 3:30 p.m.

"It brought closure," Alan said. "There's people who go through a tragedy or something like this, and they never found out the answers. So it's not the outcome we wanted, but at least we will have closure, and at some point, things should get easier."

Wiktorski was a maintenance worker at Castleton University.

In addition to his wife Marsha and brother Alan, he leaves behind daughters Dana and Heather, son Jacob, brother Kirk and sisters Kim and Diane.