As if we needed another reminder to be careful on Minnesota's rapidly deteriorating ice, three people had to be rescued from a lake in Chisago County on Sunday.
A man who fell through the ice was swiftly followed by another trying to rescue him, and a Minnesota DNR conservation officer was himself trapped while trying to rescue them both.
The Chisago County Sheriff's Office said this all unfolded on Moody Lake in south Chisago Lakes Township around 5:25 p.m. Sunday, when a call came in reporting a man had gone through the ice.
The conservation officer was the first to arrive at the scene but found not one, but two people in the water.
Skyllar Vujongvia, of St. Paul, was the first man to fall through the ice, about 80-100 yards from the public parking area, and Zachary Markgraf, of Skandia, was in the lake about 60-80 yards from shore.
Markgraf was passing by in his truck when he saw Vujongvia clinging to his fishing gear, partially submerged in the water. He ran out to help him, crawling on the ice to throw him a tow strap, and broke through himself.
When the conservation officer, who has not been named, made his own attempt to get to the stricken men, he also fell through the ice.
Fortunately, other first responders were able to get to the three men and rescue them without further incident. They were all taken to Lakes Region EMS to be treated for hypothermia, and are in a stable condition having been transported to Fairview Wyoming Hospital.
Also on Sunday, a sheriff's deputy fell through the ice on Lake Minnetonka while trying to check on a man who was removing his ice house.
WCCO reports the deputy found himself waist deep in icy water in Gray's Bay. He was pulled from the water without incident.
Thin ice warnings
It comes after weeks of warnings from authorities about the dangers of driving or even stepping out onto frozen lakes, after an unseasonably warm winter has resulted in a faster-than-usual ice melt.
The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources says the state has experienced a winter in which lake ice has had several freezes and thaws, which it says produces "extremely weak ice that is dangerous deceptive in its appearance and how thick it measures."
The DNR says many lakes and rivers in southern and central Minnesota are close to being ice-free, and are going from ice-covered to having open water over the course of a day or two.
On lakes that are experiencing melting, the DNR recommends that no vehicles go out on those lakes, and that ice shelters are removed soon – even though the mandatory dates to remove ice shelters isn’t until next month.
The Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office on Thursday also asked that people stay off all bodies of water in the county, noting ice conditions should be considered unsafe for driving and walking because of the recent warm weather and rain we’ve had.