Recovering Vehicles Lost Thru The Ice

One of the costs (and I suppose, risks) associated with being a sportsman in the northern states during the wintertime usually involves ice.   Now realize, I’m not necessarily talking ice in the sense that your truck slips off the road and gets stuck in the ditch.   Nope, I’m talking about those times when you are brave (or foolish) enough to take a newer truck out on the ice (to do a little fishing) and suddenly it breaks through and disappears.   Those are the times when your emotions are mixed with being so pissed that this has just happened to you…to embarrassed to the point you would rather be caught naked answering nature’s call by your mother-in-law than having the world talk about what just happened to you.

In Friday’s blog I mentioned an urban legend that involved a truck breaking through the ice on some Minnesota lake.   Today, however, I’m going to offer some photographic proof that it actually does happen.

The pictures and story that was presented to me came in another e-mail from a friend.   Again, I don’t have any proof that what is said is true…but when photographic evidence is presented it does add a little more credence to the story.   I’m showing it here mostly because deep down inside most of us sportsmen like to be gawkers…so long as the incident being observed didn’t actually happen to us.

I wish I could give the photographer and the person who narrates each of the pictures below credit…but unfortunately that information is buried deep in the e-mail forwarding history list so they will remain anonymous, at least for now.   Enjoy the pictures and the story:

January 7, 2006         Hunters Pt, Lake Mille Lacs, MN
            Thought you’d all enjoy these pictures, as they are a once-in-a-lifetime shots (hopefully) that I’ll ever get.  This Dodge truck went in on Thurs, 1-5-06 and was brought up on Sat, 1-7-06.

                  This is where the Dodge went thru.  Approx 1 – 2 blocks out off the shore from Hunters Pt, Mille Lacs Lake.  Went thru on Thursday, Jan 5, 2006.  Driver got out fine.  Took about 2 minutes for the vehicle to go down.

They got a cable on the truck Thursday when they first tried to get it out, so a diver did not have to go under to get it hooked up. The retrieval truck went under on Thurs. trying to get this one out, but they got that out right away. That one got wet to the seat. They spent all day Fri drying it out. It was used to get the Dodge out on Sat.

The truck was approx 30 ft or so forward of this retrieval rig. They had to cut a long slit in the ice to put the cable under to pull the truck to the rescue rig.


There was approx 12 – 14″ of ice here, but it’s been so warm that the ice had a lot of ‘air’ in it.  It is what the lake folks call ‘spring ice’ – not real safe to drive on.


I talked to the owner of the truck Sunday morning at Hunters Inn. He was fine and very grateful that he got out and everything turned out ok. Was real thankful that his wife was not with him as he said they may not have made it. He was alone at the time. (He did not watch the retrieval. He was in the bar at the time)


One of the main reasons the truck went in was because of a ‘heave’ or long crack that came down in the ice, weakening it is lot of spots.  ———-Note the 2 ‘telephone type logs’ under the frame helping guide it out.—-


The inside of the truck was full of water, making it very heavy. He pulled it up slowly so as to let some of the water drain out, getting rid of some of the weight. But the door finally had to be opened to get rid of most of it.


Jim, the owner of the rig, says that he has had the recovery rig all over the state(MN).  Wheels go under it for traveling.  I’m not sure how much it breaks down.


                      Note there are 2 trucks with cables attached to get the sunken truck out.  One is to keep it straight as the other pulls it up.  The brown truck on the far left is the one that went in on Thurs, trying to get the Dodge out.   When they cut the ‘hole’ in the ice, they use a chain saw and cut it is large chunks. Then they use a couple of ice spuds and push the chunks under the ice out of the way. Not a real easy process.


It’s amazing to watch the way they get a truck out of the ice in that small of a hole.  No scratches on the truck, either.

I’m sure most of the people who watched this truck first-hand yanked from the depths of Mille Lacs Lake in Central Minnesota were thankful it was not their truck nor their expense.   Hopefully, seeing these pictures will make all of us count our blessings this event didn’t happen to us.

I’m just thankful that back in 1979 on French Lake this very same event didn’t happen to my friend Mitch and me who were much younger and more foolish at the time.  We crossed a frozen lake and unknowingly drove over a spring where soft ice turned to open water flying in the air behind us.   On that occasion two young teenage sportsmen got very lucky the ice fishing gods cooperated by taking mercy on us…and 25 years later the lesson has still not not been forgotten.

Indeed, there are many lessons to be learned from our brethren sportsmen…and respecting ice (and its unpredictable characteristics) is something we all should learn to respect and to take caution on the side of safety.

© 2006 Jim Braaten.  All Rights Reserved.   No Reproduction without Prior Permission.