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Fisherman dies, dozens rescued from ice floe


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Coast Guard, fire crews rescue 150; first reports said up to 500 were stuck

OAK HARBOR, Ohio - One ice fisherman died while crews rescued some 150 others after they became stranded on a slab of ice about 8 miles wide on Lake Erie.

Ottawa County Sheriff Bob Bratton said one fishermen fell into the water while searching with others for a link to the shoreline.

The Coast Guard initially estimated that 300-500 fishermen were stuck on the ice.

Authorities said fishermen apparently had used wooden pallets to create a bridge over a crack in the ice so they could go farther out on the lake. But the planks fell into the water when the ice shifted, stranding the fishermen about 1,000 yards off shore.

"The ice just separated and we didn't even know," Rich Strickland of Bowling Green, who was among those rescued, told the Port Clinton News Herald.

Another rescued fishermen said the ice shifted after a ferry passed by.

Mike Sanger of Milwaukee was in the area for walleye fishing. "We were having a good time and when it got to be time to come home, it wasn't so good," he told the newspaper after being rescued.

Ice on western sections of Lake Erie is up to 2 feet thick, National Weather Service meteorologist Bill Randel said. He said it started to crack as temperatures rose above freezing this weekend and wind gusting to 35 mph pushed on the ice.

The fishermen were near Crane Creek State Park on Lake Erie's west shore in northern Ohio when the ice broke.

Such strandings happen every winter, but rarely are so many ice fishermen caught on one floe.

Ice fisherman who regularly visit the lake have said this winter’s thick ice has lured more people to the lake this year.

"There was a heck of a city out there for the last week and a half, two weeks," said 71-year-old Oak Harbor resident Peter Harrison, who has lived on the shore for 40 years.

Ohio Division of Wildlife spokeswoman Jamey Graham said the state annually warns fishermen that there’s no such thing as "safe ice."

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That's very unfortunate that a person died... but I guess it could have been far worse! Guess you just never know. However, maybe building a bridge over a crack should have been some sort of clue that there was a potential for danger. :confused:

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  • 2 weeks later...

They had been fishing the area for over a week and crossed the pressure crack many times. The warm temps and high winds should have been enough warning.

When the ice started to shift, many were able to leave the ice by machine to the east by 5 kilometers, by way of solid ice. The ones who were not so mobile, had to wait for rescue.

The fellow who passed away, had a known heart condition. His snowmobile got stuck in heavy slush and he struggled to get it out. When it got stuck again, closer to shore, he had a heart attack. A companion helped with cpr, but he could not be saved. He was only 200 yards from shore.

People take many chances going out on the ice. Lake Erie is a big lake and rarely freezes over completely. If you don't have right equipment to return home safely, that should be the first warning!

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