By Doug Ireland
---- — PELHAM — There are few things Ryan Gagne loves more than ice fishing.
The 28-year-old Pelham man relishes sleeping out on the ice of Lake Winnipesaukee in his bob-house, then waking up early to drop his fishing line through the ice, according to his father-in-law, Mike Hamlin of Gilford.
Hamlin was expected to visit his son-in-law out on the ice Sunday morning, but never made it.
Gagne and a friend, Kevin Fitzpatrick of Manchester, were injured when their portable propane heater exploded at about 2 a.m., causing a flash fire that burned both men.
Fitzpatrick, formerly of Pelham, received minor burns, but Gagne was flown by medical helicopter to Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston.
“They were in a big ball of fire that blew off the side of the bob-house,” Hamlin said. “He is lucky to be alive.”
Both men were sleeping at the time, he said. Although the men and their equipment were burned, the bob-house sustained little damage, Hamlin said.
Gagne is in critical condition in the hospital’s intensive care unit, heavily sedated as he recuperates from second-degree burns to his arms, legs, head and face, and possible third-degree burns to his hands, Hamlin said.
Gagne awoke from a drug-induced coma yesterday afternoon, feeling very emotional and worried about his friend, Hamlin said.
“He feels bad,” Hamlin said. “He said he’s sorry it happened.”
Hamlin is confident his son-in-law will pull through, but said he faces a long recovery. Gagne’s wife, Holly, and other family members are at side, he said. The couple have a 2-year-old daughter, Bella.
Hamlin said Gagne loves ice fishing and was especially looking forward to sleeping in the bob-house and participating in an ice fishing derby on the lake with a cousin this weekend.
“They were all excited to go to the fishing derby,” Hamlin said. “They were excited, just like kids, to sleep in the bob-house.”
Hamlin said he loved to fish with his son-in-law. They last fished together Saturday afternoon and he was to meet him at 7:30 a.m. Sunday for breakfast.
Gagne especially liked to use his grandfather’s old ice-fishing equipment, Hamlin said.
“It was just something that was special to him,” Hamlin said. “He just loves to fish.”
Gagne, a Pelham High School graduate, owns a local landscaping company, Gagne Landscaping. He is the son of
Richard and Gail Gagne of Pellham.
Gilford fire Chief Stephen Carrier said they are still not sure how explosion occurred, whether it was an electrical malfunction or caused by accumulation of propane in the small bob-house.
Gilford authorities received a 911 from a resident, who reported a loud noise and screaming about 100 yards from shore, Carrier said.
When firefighters arrived, they found the two dazed, burned men at the resident’s home, Carrier said. An ambulance rushed them to Lakes Region General Hospital in Laconia; Gagne was then flown to Brigham and Women’s.
Fitzpatrick has since been released from the hospital, Carrier said.