Two Iron Range men were pulled from Kabetogama Lake Tuesday afternoon by Voyageurs National Park staff after they went through the ice while traveling on an all-terrain vehicle pulling a sled.
The incident has caused Voyageurs National Park staff and the St. Louis County Sheriff’s Office to urge people to stay off area lakes as ice conditions deteriorate and become unsafe with warming temperatures.
Robert S. Crowe, 30, Chisholm, and Jay W. Podpeskar, 36, Britt, had been fishing on Kabetogama Lake during the day and were heading back to the VNP Ash River Visitor Center when the ATV Podpeskar was operating and the sled Crowe was riding in being pulled by the ATV broke through the ice, reports VNP and St. Louis County Sheriff’s Office.
Both men ended up in the water, but Podpeskar was able to get himself out and use a rope to help pull Crowe out of the water.
Voyageurs National Park maintenance employees Delane Baumchen, Keith Stevens, Garrett King and Josh Meyers were working nearby and heard the ATV heading back toward the visitor center. And then they heard the noise of the ATV suddenly stop. Stevens ran onto a nearby dock to get a better view of what was going on and could see equipment laying on the ice and what appeared to be two people in the water trying to get out.
He immediately called for help from the other men working and asked for additional help to be dispatched. They quickly developed a rescue plan and set it in motion. Working together, they rounded up rope, life jackets, canoes, paddles, some lumber and tools.
After connecting the canoes together with lumber to form a rescue platform, King and Meyers were able to push the canoes out onto the ice, rescue both men, and get them safely to shore.
Crowe was transported by the International Falls Ambulance Service to the International Falls hospital where he was treated and released. Podpeskar was not injured in the incident.
The incident was investigated by the St. Louis County Sheriff’s Office and Voyageur Park Service. Recovery efforts for the ATV will occur once the ice goes out.
“The quick actions of King, Meyers, Stevens and Baumchen most likely prevented a tragedy from occurring,” said VNP staff in a news release.
The International Falls Ambulance Service, Kabetogama Fire and First Responders, St. Louis County Rescue Squad, Koochiching County Rescue Services, and Vermilion Lake Fire Brigade also responded.