2018 Fatilities


November 20, 2017:  Upper Red Lake MN about a mile north of Mort's Dock Resort

A woman (29) and man (28) broke through the ice about a mile off shore on Upper Red Lake near Mort's Dock.  No details were given about the ice thickness or the presence of pressure ridges, thin ice (new ice holes) or gas holes.    The breakthrough thickness of cold ice with 1000 lb all up weight is a little under 3".  Upper Red Lake is big (25 mi long) but shallow (18' max depth).  

November temperatures were generally below freezing but peak daily temps were above freezing about 1/3 of the time.  Snow fell on about half the time. 

Probably the couple would have survived if they had ice claws and flotation (a snowmobile float suit would be best).  



 December 11, 2017, Crosby MN, Serpent Lake

A solo snowmobile rider broke through the ice about 35 yards from shore at about 5:30 AM. The ice was reported to be 5-6" thick with some open water.  His body was recovered the next day. 

There is a good chance that ice claws or flotation would have saved the day. 


December 16, 2017, Cohasset MN, Rice Lake

Two people riding on an ATV broke through the ice.  A 23 year old woman drowned.   The man with her was able get out and call Rescue.  They responded at 5:45 PM.  

Both of this and the next accident would not have been fatal with ice claws or throw ropes or flotation.


December 15, 2017, Bemidji MN, Grace Lake

Two people riding an ATV broke through the ice.  A 23 year old woman drowned. The man with her was able to get back on the ice and call 911 from a nearby residence. 

Authorities pointed out that it is too early for enough to form to give consistantly strong ice.  

It is quite a coincidence to have this and the previous accident have such similar accidents within a day of each other.


December 18, 2017, Franklin County PA, Lake Authur

A solo ice 71 year old  fisherman broke through the ice on on Lake Authur in western PA.  He broke through about 200 feet from the boat lanch showed above.  He waved his arm and was seen by a person driving by on Rt 528.  He submerged before rescue was able to get to him.

The first sustained below freezing period started on December 8th and ended the 16th.  This area of the lake most likely froze for the first time during this period.  

An ice chisel or test pole would have enabled the fisherman to test the ice as he went out on the lake. Ice claws probably would have enabled him to get back on the ice. A lifejacket or float coat would have kept him on the surface. He would have probably survived long enough for Rescue to get to get to him. 

There was a similar fatality on Lake Authur a few years ago. 


Nonfatal skating accident:  January 4, 2018, Mountain Lakes NJ, Mountain Lake. 

A solo female skater broke through thin ice on Mountain Lake in the middle of the afternoon.  She was able to get out on the ice on her own.  She called rescue and waited until they arrived shortly after. This was a smart choice on her part. Better to wait for help you know is on the way than risk falling in again. Getting out a second time is likely to be more difficult and less likely to be successful. Having a phone that did not fail after the dunking make making the 911 call possible. 

One of the pictures in the Daily Record article appears to show a large area of new ice with no snow.  Further back there was a thin snow cover.  High temperatures for 11 days running up to the accident never got above 26 degrees.   It was about 25 and overcast at the of the accident. It was very windy on the 4th, the peak gusts were 40 mph and they occurred around the time of the accident. Based on the Daily Record pictures it does not look like the ice ripped out but it could have. 


January 10, 2018, Monroe Couinty Oh, Lake Erie.  

A 40 year old man broke through the ice on his ATV leaving a 12 foot diameter hole about 1000 ft from shore. Video looking out onto the lake showed lots of pooled water (rain/melt/upflow?).  Also seen were several pressure ridges. It took 8 days to find the body.


January 8, 2018,  Lake Delhi IA

A 23 year old man broke through the ice at night. The temps previous week were mostly in the single numbers or low teens so warm temps were probably not a problem. Rescue personnel reported that the breakthrough point was near the entrance to the lake and that the ice is often thinner in the area.  Local residents reported an SUV doing donuts on the lake.  The next morning a large hole was spotted and a resident approached the hole and saw the SUV upside down in 8 feet of water. 

It turns out there was another person in the vehicle who was charged for vehicular homisid two weeks after the incident..  


January 9, 2018, North Ferrisburg VT, Lake Champlain

This is a non-fatal accident that shows how much luck determines the outcome of an ice accident.

A 78 year old man lived near a small, north facing bay on Lake Champlain.  Most of the shorelines were cliffs.  The wind fetch from the north was many miles. The ice in the bay was fairly firm on the back of the bay but was more broken up nearer the mouth of the bay and it was open water on the north end of the bay.  He chose, on impulse, to go for a walk on the bay.

He had an ice axe to test the ice.  He crossed the bay on the southern ice testing the ice from time to time.  A neighbor saw him and told him ice was dangerous.  The man jumped up and down a couple times and wacked the ice with his ice axe and kept going.  As he broke though near the west side of the bay on ice that was plates of different thickness that resulted from waves breaking the ice in the bay prevously.  He attempted to get out but was only able to get partially out.  The he started to call for help.  The neighbor was back inside his house and did not hear him. 

As luck would have it, another  resident had stepped out side to check her bird feeders and heard the man's cry for help.  She ran inside and told her husband and then called 911.  Her husband was an avid outdoors man.  He quickly assessed the situation and  through his 13 ft aluminum boat into the back of his pickup and drove to where he could let it slide down a steep slope to be reasonably near the victim. He then went around the cliffs to get to the boat.  He was able to get the transom of the boat to the victim but he was loosing his grip.  The husband was not able to drag the victim into the boat but was able to hold onto the victim until Rescue arrived from  Charlotte Fire and Rescue.  They were able to rescue the man.  

His survival was dependent on several lucky circumstances:

The woman choosing to check her bird feeders when she did.

The size of her husband's fishing boat.  If it had been any bigger it wouldn't have fit in his truck. His experience ice fishing  allowed him to make quick and effective decisions. 


January 16, 2018, Midland County MI, Sanford Lake

A solo, 58 year old man broke through about 300 ft from shore in his Utility Vehicle at 11:52 PM.  The break through was witnessed from shore as the lights submerged.  Sanford lake is more of a river than a lake with thin ice and open water being common.

Closed cab vehicles often have very short float times and the the cab may interfere with making a quick enough exit.   


January 13, 2018, Price County, WI

Two men riding snomobiles at speed across a lake at 10:00 PM ran into the shore and were killed. Alcohol was determined to be a factor.


January 15, 2018, 5 PM, Martinsville IN, Private Pond

Fishing gear on a private pond indicated someone may have broken through.  A 51 year old man was found under the water.


January 17, 2018, Ozaukee Co, WI

A group of four (+?) riders were riding on a river at 10:53 PM.  One of them failed to negotiate a bend in river and hit a tree at the side of the river.  Alcohol was determined to be a factor.


January 18, 2018, 6:30 PM, Sturgeon Lake, Ontario, 

Two riders broke through.  One was rescued by nearby residents.  The other man drowned.  There were a lot of open water and puddles on the ice.  

Flotation would have probably saved the victim.  Ice claws would have helped. Being on well thawed ice this late in the season is asking for trouble. 


February 3, 2018, Saginaw Bay MI

Two fishermen broke though weak ice at about 9:30 AM.  They called a friend and left a message. The message was picked up at 2:30 PM and Rescue found them at 4:30 about 900 ft from where their gear was found.  They were age 69 and 73. They were both found in the water.

There had been repeated notices that the ice was dodgy as a result of multiple thaws.  One thaw ended two days before the accident.


 The temperature was 20 deg, the wind was in the mid teens and light snow was falling. Unfortunately the first call for help was not 911.  This appears to have been a situation where the second man went to to help the first and ended up in the water.  A throw rope allows rescuing from a distance.  Ice claws make getting out easier. A life jacket or other flotation makes getting out more likely and typically gives nearly an hour to be rescued.  Without flotation people often drown in a few minutes.


 February 6, 2018, Vermilion County IL, Pond

An 84 year old man broke thorough a pond he was fishing on.  Neighbors and Deputies  used a kyak to keep the man from going under. He was taken to a hospital where he died of hypothermia. The ice at the breakthrough was reported to be half an inch thick.  

Ice claws, flotation and an ice chisel or test pole all would have improved the odds significantly. 

February 7, 2018, Queens NY, Strack Pond in Forest Park

A 12 year old boy fell through ice. His 11 year old friend got him back on top of the ice but then fell through the ice himself.  The 12 year old went for help.  Rescue arrived promptly but were not able to save him.  This took place at 4:05 pm.


February 10, 2018, Conover WI

At 1:42 AM A 55 Year old rider hit the shore of an ice covered lake and was thrown into tree near the edge of the lake. He was estimated to be traveling about 100 mph. Alcohol was determined as a factor.


February 16, 2018   Alexis IL

A 16 year boy fell through weak ice on a pond near Alexis IL.  He was reported missing and was recovered shortly there after.  The weather for the previous 2 weeks was a mix of cold (single numbers to mid 20's and warm (40's).  Gas holes might have been involved,


February 26, 2018  Point Au Roche NY, Lake Champlain

A 66 year man riding an ATV broke through the ice over an underwater reef.  In addition there was an eroded pressure ridge associated with the point and the reef.  The ice was too dodgy to venture out when I was there a couple days later.  The reef was known to the local fisherman I spoke with.  

Reefs are commonly associated with points as are pressure ridges. 

The reef runs  ENE off of North Point (image: Goggle Map).  At the time of the accident there was open water over the reef for about 150 feet.  The rider appeared to cut the corner too close.  Ice claws, flotation and checking the ice strength with a chisel or test pole might have saved the day.  

The last half of February was mostly above freezing.  


March 2, 2018, Middle Inlet,  WI, Lake Noquebay

A 79 year old man drove his truck onto Lake Noquebay from Maple Beach Road (upper left).  Middle Outlet Creek enters the lake on the lower left side of the picture.  The watershed appears to be fairly big and swampy.  One of the rescuers said there was thin ice in the area near the inlet.  Spring flows in creeks is often warm enough to to thin the ice on lakes they enter.   

Darkness, warm weather, higher stream flows, ability to get out a window quickly probably all contributed to this fatality. 


March 2, 2018, Bangor ME, Kendiskeag Stream

A 22 year old man was fleeing police by jumping into the stream. He refused assistance in the form of life jackets and throw ropes. He was pulled under the ice by the slope or current.  His body was found about four months later.


March 7, 2018, Time?, Goebic County MI, Thousand Island Lake

A 55 year old man was driving a skidsteer on the ice and broke through.  


March 19, 9 AM, Beaver Pond, MI, Beaver Pond Lake, 

A 52 year old man drove his pick-up about 20 yards from shore before braking through.  He drowned.