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Double trouble: Brothers' trucks break through thinning lake ice

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A couple of Wisconsin brothers ended up in hot – err, cold – water Sunday after both their trucks broke through the ice of Lake Winnebago, KARE 11 reports.

Robert Lobajeski's pickup went in first, the station says, near Clarence's Harbor at the south end of the lake. His sibling Brett Lobajeski saw it all happen. Being the good family member he is, Brett drove his own vehicle over to help – only to see his truck's front tires go through the ice about 100 feet before he got to Robert, KARE reports.

According to Gannett Media, neither were far from designated driving paths, but temperatures in the 50s probably softened things up.

Both Brett and Robert got help from nearby snowmobilers and members of a fishing club. Robert's truck remained stuck, but above water; the front of Brett's truck cracked through and became submerged as crews worked to get it out.

Brett tells the site his vehicle is unlikely to function.

As spring slowly sweeps over the Midwest and warmer temps melt the solid ice, the Minnesota DNR preemptively warned about spurts of cool weather not making ice suddenly safe. Ice in the metro was described was "deteriorating rapidly," and thickness levels vary from one area to the next.

“While we have had temperatures in the 20s or 30s that does not mean the ice on a lake, pond or river is safe,” said Kara Owens, DNR boat and water safety specialist.

The DNR says two people have died this winter after falling through ice – both ice fishermen.

“The bottom line is it‘s crucial that people do not let their guard down and recognize ice is never 100 percent safe,” Owens said.

According to DNR records there were four ice-related drownings in Minnesota during the previous winter – three on Lake Minnetonka and one on Lake Elysian. In each case a car broke through the ice.

On March 27, a snowmobiler had to be rescued from Lake Minnetonka after his ride broke through the ice, WCCO reported.

The DNR offers thickness guidelines for being on a frozen lake.

2 inches or less – STAY OFF

4 inches – Ice fishing or other activities on foot

5 inches – Snowmobile or ATV

8-12 inches – Car or small pickup

12- 15 inches – Medium truck

The agency suggests contacting local bait shops or resorts about current ice conditions before heading out, and checking ice thickness yourself once on location. The DNR says cars, pickups and SUVs should be parked at least 50 feet apart and moved every two hours to prevent sinking.

They also suggest making a hole next to the car. If water starts to overflow the top of the hole, the ice is sinking and the vehicle should be moved.

If this is still a problem in six weeks, then Minnesota's fishermen aren't going to be too thrilled. The season opens May 10, and based on the long-range forecast, temps will remain below average. That means we could get a repeat of last year, when ice still covered many of the state's angler hotspots when the opener came around.

Transitioning from ice fishing to open water has proven difficult. With the deadline to remove shelters bearing down earlier this month, many people found their ice houses frozen in place. In some places there was so much snow, people couldn't even get to their shelter.

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