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Man survives fall through thin ice

1:02 PM, Jan 4, 2013   |    comments
Photo from Battle Creek Enquirer of Richard Johnson at Dexter Lake
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EMMETT TWP., Mich. (BATTLE CREEK ENQUIRER) - Richard Johnson has been ice fishing for 24 years and had never fallen into an icy lake -- until Wednesday.

"It was good," he said Thursday. "I was using my spud (to check the ice) and then I was walking through that snow and I went in."

Johnson, 27, said as the ice under his feet on Dexter Lake in Emmett Township broke, he put his arms out to stay above water and hold onto the edges of ice.

"You have to keep your arms out," he said.

It was 11 a.m. Wednesday and Johnson said while he knew it was early in the ice fishing season, he believed he was safe on the small lake behind Lakeside Apartments and Townhouses at 1125 E. Michigan Ave.

But as he walked out, the 230-pound man stepped on thin ice and suddenly plunged into 20 feet of water. He said his wet clothes added another 30 to 40 pounds as he tried to pull himself from the water.

"The ice kept breaking. But you roll and I finally got out."

Cold and scared, the only thing he was thinking was "getting out."

He knew, "I was on the verge of not making it."

Now he says his primary thought is "not doing it again and to wait for the ice."

Johnson said he made a hole big enough to drive a car through and on Thursday someone living on the lake noticed it and some clothes and a sled nearby.

They called the Emmett Township Department of Public Safety at 10:39 a.m. and emergency responders went to the lake, but quickly learned the broken ice was from the day before and that Johnson had gotten out.

Emmett Township's Lt. Tony Geigle said the ice on the lake was three to four inches thick on Thursday but as Johnson said, not as strong under snow that insulates it and slows the freezing.
Deputy Jeff Edwards of the Calhoun County Sheriff Department Marine Division said ice is forming on lakes but is not yet thick enough to bear people.

"It's getting there," Edwards said. "We have had ice start to form, but they should not go out there."

Edwards said the minimum safe ice is one to two inches of thickness for each 100 pounds of a person.

"And the more the better," he said.

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