Vehicle sinks into Lac Ile-a-la Crosse

by Phil Ambroziak

A recent incident in Ile-a-la Crosse has both police and firefighters reminding residents about the safety of prematurely driving onto ice-covered lakes.

According to Sgt. Lloyd Gerard of the Ile-a-la Crosse RCMP detachment, the driver of a minivan managed to escape uninjured when the vehicle broke through the ice on Lac Ile-a-la Crosse Nov. 16.

“We got the call around 10 p.m. Sunday,” Gerard confirmed. “He (driver) was the lone occupant of the vehicle and is a resident of Ile-a-la Crosse, but, right now, the incident is still under investigation.”

Ile-a-la Crosse Fire and Rescue also responded to the call while additional assistance was provided by a crew from a nearby community. However, as of press time, the vehicle remained submerged at the bottom of the lake.

“It can’t be pulled out until the ice is thick enough to bring out the necessary heavy equipment to extract it,” Gerard continued. “It definitely has to come out, though, because it’s located pretty close to our water intake.”

Because the matter is still under investigation, Gerard could not say if charges would be laid against the driver, but he did note it’s a possibility. In the meantime, Gerard issued a word of warning to the public about being cautious before venturing onto a frozen body of water during the winter months.

“In this area, a lot of the locals do like to go out there and they certainly know the ice better than we do, but ice conditions can change drastically with changes in temperature,” he said. “People need to be cognizant about the ice and how it can fluctuate in thickness, and they need to be careful.”

Meadow Lake fire chief Neil Marsh echoed these comments, stating people need to ensure the ice is strong enough to hold both their weight and the weight of whatever vehicle they’re using to access it.

“At this time of year, a lot of people are anxious to get out there to do some ice fishing – they want to get on the ice as soon as possible,” Marsh said. “But, every year, conditions are different and every body of water is different. Just because one lake is frozen over and the ice is thick enough to drive on does not mean it’s going to be the same story on another lake.”

In Meadow Lake, firefighters take part in regular ice rescue training each year. The next on-ice drills are tentatively scheduled for March, but the chief said refresher courses for certified members, as well as new firefighters are held at least twice a year.

“Luckily, we don’t often have to respond to these types of calls, but it’s always a possibility,” Marsh said. “We have a lot of water bodies in our response area.”

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