On Saturday, dozens of people were taking advantage of the weekend and the weather to go ice fishing at the Bay of Green Bay in Wisconsin when an ice shove stranded at least 27 of them.
“The Brown County Sheriff’s Office, along with New Franken Fire, Green Bay Fire, WI DNR and the Coast Guard are actively working an ice rescue of more than 20 people off the shore of Point Comfort on the Bay of Green Bay,” the Brown County Sheriff’s Office shared on Facebook.
“Barge traffic yesterday appears to have weakened the ice along the east shore of the Bay, therefore, the ice should be avoided for all recreational use. Please also avoid the roadways near Point Comfort as many emergency vehicles need to get in and out of that area.”
Southern Door County volunteer firefighter Sam Greenberg, who was off-duty at the time, immediately spotted the issue as he approached.
“Even before I got down to our, our property down there, I could see out on the water a large crack had developed on that ice,” Greenberg told WFRV-TV.
“I spoke to the New Franken fire chief and told him I can help out. He told me to suit up.”
Local Daniel Larson, whose property overlooks the area, was also surprised by just how extensive the crack was from his vantage point. He used his drone to investigate further.
“Some of the ice fishermen were on the land side others were on the bay side … I thought holy cow this is pretty big,” Larson said. “Took a shot up to the north, you can see the ice break just continued for miles.”
Multiple local agencies banded together to perform the rescue, and it went smoothly. At least 27 people were rescued, without incident or injury.
“Some pictures of today’s successful ice rescue of 27 people stranded on an ice shove,” the Brown County Sheriff’s Office shared on Facebook. “Happy to report a good ending to this extremely dangerous situation!”
The comments section on the sheriff’s post swirled with accusations. Many demanded that the rescued fishermen be fined for their recklessness, others argued that this was a freak accident and wasn’t just due to reckless behavior.
Many are maintaining that the issue was caused by a barge that had passed by the area a short time before, weakening the ice and causing the cracking.
“It was like a, a large ship that had just gone through,” Greenberg said. “I could still see it out there and I believe that ship had disturbed that ice.”
“We weren’t able to confirm that with complete certainty,” Lieutenant John Bain with the Brown County patrol told WFRV. “But we believe that may have been a factor in the ice along with wind and current conditions.”
A person in the comments identified himself as one of the fishermen who’d been out that day.
“[W]e checked the ice all the way out, we were only about a half mile off shore,” Darin Roger wrote. “Ice was about 6 inches thick … seemed safe, I understand it never is fully safe.
“There was about 200 ppl just inside the crack. We learned our lesson, made for a hell of a memory though.”
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