Hazardous Ice Conditions Bring Near Tragic Results
Contact: Jim Hummel, 218-283-6650
INTERNATIONAL FALLS, Minnesota: In two separate incidents this weekend, park visitors traveling on the ice within Voyageurs National Park narrowly averted tragic results when their four-wheel all terrain vehicles (ATV) broke through the ice.
On Friday afternoon near Wolf Island, two visitors from the Lake Kabetogama area were traveling on a four-wheeler east of Wolf Island when their ATV broke through the ice. The visitors were able to jump off the ATV as it hung precariously over the ice edge and crawl to thicker ice. The visitors later retrieved the ATV before it broke through the ice completely.
On Saturday afternoon Park Rangers received a report of an ATV that broke through the ice in the narrows between Lake Kabetogama and Namakan Lake. Investigation revealed that Charles Hart and John Mercier from White Bear Lake and Lino Lakes along with their 7, 12 and 14-year old children were riding on one ATV, in an area typically closed in the winter due to thin ice, when their ATV broke through the ice. All five riders were able to jump off the ATV and onto thicker ice in order to reach the shoreline before the ATV sank. When Hart returned to retrieve his fishing gear and mark the location of the sunken ATV, he broke through the ice and struggled for 15 minutes before he was able to rescue himself. The party of five returned to their cabin and completed a 3.5 hour walk along the shoreline the following day in order to return to their truck at the Ash River Visitor Center. The ATV now rests in 60 feet of water and is the responsibility of the owner to remove as soon as the area can be accessed by boat.
Aerial reconnaissance and onsite inspections by park staff have shown rapidly deteriorating ice conditions over the past several days due to the extreme warm temperatures and sunny weather. Park staff are concerned that poor ice conditions are now seriously hampering or may prevent a timely response to a rescue situation. Visitors are warned to avoid all travel on the ice as any decision to do so may well be their last.