MN Sheriff’s Department Shares Sunken Vehicle Retrieval Costs And Value Of Ice Safety
A handful of times each year, we hear stories around Minnesota and Wisconsin about vehicles that fall through the ice. It is a scary and potentially dangerous prospect that thousands of outdoor enthusiasts try to avoid each year. One thing that never gets discussed is how much it costs to get that vehicle out of the lake after it falls through.
One of the major challenges of retrieving a sunken vehicle out of the ice is that you have to hoist the vehicle up, out of the hole it fell into in most cases. This usually means a special hoist is needed to support the weight of the vehicle and implement pulleys to lift the vehicle up before moving the whole rig to safer ice (or land). While these aren't exceedingly common, there are some towing companies and other organizations that have invested in building or buying hoist rigs for the job, being there is a need every year around the region.
Beside hiring a tow truck and the necessary hoist rig, you might also need a diver to hook the vehicle up to the hoist if you were unlucky enough to drop your vehicle into water deep enough that it can't be reached from the surface. Even vehicles that are in water shallow enough to be partially above the ice, there is still a need for someone to get in the water safely to hook up the vehicle, which would still require a diver or a specialist (ice rescue team member, etc.) with appropriate cold water gear to safely get in the water.
Once the vehicle is out of the water, there is then the time and cost of thawing and drying out the vehicle and making sure water didn't get into or negatively impact the engine or fuel system.
It is easy to see things get expensive in a hurry.
The Brown County Sheriff's Department in Southern Minnesota recently shared a story, which stressed the importance of ice safety and how much ice thickness can vary in relatively short distances.
Two people were in a truck on Lake Hanska in Brown County, driving across the lake when they fell through the ice. Luckily, both of the occupants of the truck were able to escape through open windows, being they were unable to open the truck's doors. On the day of the ice rescue, there was 7 inches of ice where the truck went through, and 100 yards away, there was 15 inches of ice. Remember, the minimum recommendation from the Minnesota DNR for a truck is 12-15 inches of clear ice. There was about half that where the truck went through.
In the case of this rescue (detailed in photos in the two Facebook posts below), the department estimated the cost of the truck retrieval to be just under $10,000. This, of course doesn't include whatever work may need to be done to the truck to get it back on the road. The department reported that the truck owner's insurance company would cover the costs "one time", though I can't imagine all insurance companies or plans would be as forgiving.
So, there you have it. About $10,000 to get a truck out of the ice. Between the dangers of drowning or hypothermia and costs like that, it should go without saying that you should be very careful when on the ice. While this isn't meant to scare ice fishing enthusiasts off the ice completely, it is certainly is a good reminder to be smart, never assume, and listen to cautionary messages from the DNR or law enforcement.