Sartell ice fisherman underwater 40 minutes; now likely to recover


KARE 11 reports the Sartell man who fell through the ice on Little Rock Lake Nov. 15 is close to making a full recovery.

Rescuers say Josh Johnson was underwater for 40 minutes. His heart stopped for an hour.

Family and first-responders are calling his recovery miraculous. Doctors at the University of Minnesota Medical Center, Fairview say he suffered no brain damage, and his damaged organs will heal.

Johnson had called friends to join him on the ice that day, but everyone said it was too early, according to his sister, Heather Koch.

He was fishing about 150 feet from shore when he went through two inches of ice. He screamed for help, then hung on to a board while rescuers tried to reach him. They watched Johnson go under, repeatedly tossing a hook from their boat before it finally caught Johnson's leg.

"When I saw him come out of the water, he didn't look good," said Minnesota DNR Lt. Tony Musatov, who was one of the first responders.

The family was told he might not survive.

Their ordeal is detailed on Johnson's CaringBridge site; from the first critical hours when hope was scarce, through a bout of pneumonia and dialysis to the tests that revealed he suffered no brain damage.

His CaringBridge story says he was unconscious with no pulse when rescuers got to him. They continued CPR at the hospital in St. Cloud, where he was stabilized, then airlifted to the University of Minnesota hospital.

Doctors there kept his body cooler than normal to reduce the chance of brain swelling. He went on dialysis for his kidneys, and a ventilator for his lungs. He was also put on a sophisticated blood-recycling machine to gradually warm his body and replace lost oxygen.

The family's latest post reports Johnson is alert and responsive. He gave them a scare when he got out of bed without authorization.

In a family-produced YouTube video, Johnson is described as an outdoors-loving, hard-working family man. He has two young children with another on the way. The family says it welcomes moral support and financial donations. A benefit will be held Sunday at the Medina Ballroom.

The National Centers for Disease Control says more than 1200 people die from hypothermia every year.

The website Minnesota SeaGrant says expected survival time and time until unconsciousness depends mostly on water temperature, but also on the physical fitness of the person.

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