DNR warns people to be cautious around ice
Written by Associated Press   
Sunday, 27 November 2005 12:05

The state Department of Natural Resources is warning that people should be cautious around ice, especially so early in the season, after three people died because of thin ice in southern Wisconsin.

Mark Pearce, a DNR conservation warden in Sheboygan County, said people should check ice thickness before going on it. Even when temperatures have been cold for extended periods of time, it doesn't mean the ice is safe, Pearce said.

"There isn't a good guideline on that because at this time of year, you're going from open water to making ice," Pearce said. "Just because it's been cold two days does not mean the ice is safe on every water body you set foot on."

On Friday, Brian Obbink, 44, and his 10-year-old daughter, Megan, drowned after Megan fell through the ice while skating on a pond near Cedar Grove and her father tried to save her, Sheboygan County sheriff's officials said. Obbink was the president of the Cedar Grove-Belgium Area School Board.

About an hour later and 10 miles away, 12-year-old Cody Lechler of Kiel, drove an all-terrain vehicle onto a small pond near Waldo and fell through an inch of ice, said Cascade Police Chief Cory Roeseler. He died Friday night.

Pearce said ice should be at least 3 inches thick for foot travel, 6 inches for ATVs and snowmobiles, and 1 foot for vehicles. He said people should also check bait shops, local fisherman and hunters to see if they've found thin ice.

People can use an ice chisel to check the depth of the ice.

"That's even in effect a crap-shoot to some extent, because you're dealing with springs, currents and those sorts of things where you might have 6 inches of ice in one spot and you walk 20 feet, it'll be down to 2 inches," Pearce said.

Pearce also recommends wearing a life jacket and going with at least one other person.

"If you're with a companion, hopefully it can minimize things if you do end up getting in trouble," Pearce said.

Pearce also recommends carrying ice picks or claws, which are handles with picks on the ends to help a person get out of the water.

"You can hook into the ice and kick your feet to try to get level with the surface to try to work your way out," Pearce said. "But you're contending with hypothermia, you're contending with your clothes getting waterlogged. You've got a precious few minutes to work yourself back up on top of the ice before you're in big trouble."

Someone who falls through ice and doesn't have ice picks should put his hands and arms on the unbroken ice and work his way forward by kicking his feet, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.

Once on the ice, roll away from the hole rather than standing up.

If a companion falls through the ice, call 911 first, then try to find an item on shore that can be extended to the victim to be pulled out by the person on solid ice or ground, the Minnesota agency said.

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