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Jim Staricha, ice recovery man, tells what to do when the ice gives way

Dennis Anderson, Star Tribune (Minneapolis) on

Published in Outdoors

A: Again, very important.

Q: Will vehicles float before they sink?

A: Yes, sometimes. Again, every situation is different. Some vehicles will float eight or 10 minutes. Others, especially older vehicles, might sink right away.

Q: What's important to remember if you exit a vehicle while it's floating?

A: Most good ice will be alongside you or behind you. If you can get on top of the vehicle and jump, do it in one of those directions. I put a CJ-5 Jeep through Mille Lacs once and was able to get onto the hood and jump before it sunk. But I had an advantage because the top was open, with no roof.

Q: If you feel your vehicle going through, what should you do first?

A: If you have time and can think, swing your door open all the way. If there are other passengers, have them do the same. It's possible the doors with their extra 3 feet of length will hang up on the ice and hold the vehicle up for enough time to escape. But if you can only open the door partially and you're going down, don't try to get out through the partial opening. The car will tip toward the open door as you go down, filling with water from that direction, and you might get squished.

Q: And if you ride the vehicle down?

 

A: You'll have to wait until you get below the ice to exit through a window or however you can. When the vehicle fills with water and the pressure equalizes between outside and inside, you can open a door. But if you can't, again, you need the window-breaking tool.

Q: How do you find the hole in the ice if you free yourself from the vehicle?

A: You might be so confused you don't even know down from up. But follow the bubbles. Bubbles go up. And when you're looking for the hole, look for dark, not light. You'll think the hole should be light, but it will appear dark.

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