02/22/2013 05:44 EST | Updated 04/24/2013 05:12 EDT

Wildlife officer mourned after falling through ice

A Newfoundland and Labrador wildlife officer is missing and presumed drowned after falling through ice on the Northern Peninsula.

Howard Lavers was on patrol with two other officers south of Hawke's Bay around 4 p.m. Thursday when ice gave way on a pond known locally as Eastern Bluey Pond, near Blue Mountain.

Retired conservation officer Earl Pilgrim said the two other men were able to scramble back onto the ice and tried to save Lavers.

"They tried to get a rope to him and they tied a shovel on a rope and threw [it] out to him," Pilgrim said.

"Of course, they couldn't get to him. There was no way he could hold himself onto the edge of the ice, so he slipped through, and that was it," Pilgrim told the West Coast Morning Show Friday.

Pilgrim said he trained Lavers for six months and had seen him just a few days ago.

Lavers was an officer with the Fish and Wildlife Enforcement Division, which falls under the Department of Justice.

In a statement released early Friday morning, Justice Minister Darin King said he was "deeply saddened" by the tragedy.

One source told CBC that Lavers was well known in the region, and news of the accident was hitting surrounding communities very hard.

RCMP are investigating, as well as officials with the Newfoundland and Labrador government's occupational health and safety division.