Patrol: Semi Goes Off Road, Breaks Through Ice

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – A semi went off road on Interstate 94 East near Monticello Friday morning and broke through the ice of a nearby pond, sinking up to its windshield, authorities said.

According to the State Patrol, a semi carrying 20,000 pounds of freight went off Interstate 94 at 6:13 a.m. near mile post 169. The semi was driving east before it crossed oncoming traffic and skidded more than 100 yards onto an ice-covered pond.

“Once he realized he was in the water, it was dark obviously at that time of day, and he got out of the vehicle and swam to shore,” said Lt. Paul VanVoorhis, who says witnesses on shore called for help. “The driver stated that he is not sure what happened.”

The semi’s driver, 34-year-old John Nettifee, of Anoka, suffered minor injuries, and was treated and released at Monticello Hospital, the patrol said.

Traffic backed up for miles while crews turned their attention to the Target trailer lodged in the ice. They called in experts to help tow it out.

“They called me this morning, and said they got a semi in the water. I go: ‘What?! A semi? No way,’” said Phil Kerber, a scuba diver from Medina, who usually searches shipwrecks.

Kerber says when it comes to vehicle recovery, this is also a rare find.

“It’s kind of dangerous in some sort of way,” Kerber said. “But I’m familiar with it because of my shipwreck experience.”

He dove under a foot of ice to secure cables for tow trucks.

“It’s in muck about three feet deep, so it’s going to be a heck of a time pulling it out,” he said.

Phil Collins with Collins Brothers Towing in Elk River brought in three large tow trucks in a coordinated effort to tug the truck to shore.

“This is a tow truck guy’s dream,” Collins said, vowing his crews wouldn’t go home until the truck was out. “Anything you buy at Target is probably in the truck, 20 thousand pounds, plus the truck and trailer, probably about 40 thousand pounds [total].”

Crews used chainsaws to cut a path through the ice to the pond’s shore. It took nearly eight hours to break the truck loose, and then a clean-up team came in to address spilled diesel and leaking oil.

A Target spokesperson said the freight was headed from Willmar to their Fridley distribution center, and that Nettifee wasn’t directly employed by Target. His truck lists his own operation, Nettifee Enterprises.

WCCO could not reach Nettifee for comment.

Nettifee’s driving record shows he was convicted of driving an unregistered vehicle in Anoka County in 2009, driving while his license was suspended in Nicollet County in 2009, and driving over the legal tandem axle weight in St. Louis County in 2011.

Video From The Semi Rescue

  • Really WCCO?

    Seems to be afiliated with Target?? WOW I am glad they posted that, I would have NEVER figuired that one out……..Pfffff.

    • Really Picky Reader?

      next you’ll comment about how they said it went offroad. clearly the picture shows it sitting in a lake, I don’t know of any roads that go into a lake.

      • Richard in Minneapolis

        I suppose if the road ends in a boat ramp…

    • X-Puffer


    • hmmm

      Target doesnt employ their drivers directly. Target uses a subcontracting company that uses individual owner operators.

      • Me

        Sub-contract the driving out.

      • texasnative

        Not all the drivers are owner operators…..

  • Wendi

    I was thinking the same thing when I read that one. I’m not sure if that big TARGET on the trailer would tell me so



  • Carol L. Erickson

    I wonder how they are going to get that out of the water…dang, I’m just glad the driver made it out safe!

  • Brett

    If you are going to water-skip a semi, you need a lot more SPEED to pull it off.

  • Johnjohn

    He should have not listened to the GPS chick when she said – ‘take an immediate left as soon as possible’

    • red


  • Lady Rae

    I dare any one of you jokers who drive like idiots (aka four wheelers with a death wish) around the truck drivers to get behind the wheel of a semi in the conditions they drive in. This is where we would see you. Remember to bring along a change of underwear.

    • Trailertrash

      I wasn’t aware conditions were this bad this morning , I drove my mustang gt 45 miles to work today no problem!

    • Tribute to truck drivers

      I agree with you. Most of us would not be able to succeed at driving a semi. Hats off to the men and woman who are able to perform this task. They are the ones that are keeping this economy moving. Without their expert driving retail would be unable to stay fully stocked.

      • Clown

        Driving a Semi on a highway, is not that difficult, um was there a blizzard this morning? Many semi drivers are not focused enough, it’s quite bothersome.

        • MikeDawg

          I see WAAAAAAAAAAAAY more unfocused people driving cars than I see driving trucks. The number of unfocused folks driving cars is quite bothersome. I would say the car stupidity to trucker stupidity ratio is 50-1.

          • Der

            I hope so, people driving cars arn’t driving for a living Semi drivers are.

            • MikeDawg

              So that makes it ok for folks in cars to be more careless then?

          • red

            Amen!! perhaps they were a little sleepy???

        • brent

          and if 99percent of cars aka 4wheelers would get off the dam phone and quit texting, many accidents could be prevented!!!!!!!!!

          • RM

            Very true Brent, I often say to people, “if you paid half as much attention to the road as you do that phone, traffic wouldn’t be as chaotic or backed up”.

  • See BS

    Free Advertisement for Target

  • publicity?

    they say “any publicity is good publicity”. Maybe, maybe not. Hmmm is right, this truck was not owned or operated by Target. It’s a trucking company (think it’s Werner or JB Hunt, not positive though) that delivers the trailers to the Target docks for unloading. What’s weird is that usually the full trucks go in the evening for unloading and overnight stocking,, and they pick up the empty ones in the mornings.

    • MNMaid

      Not necessarily. When I worked in frozen foods for Target our truck deliveries would come in around 8am every morning.

    • gkyaloh

      “The truck driver has a job with Target till he retires..h­e solely gave the stores free publicity. He has done more than the whole marketing department­. Ooh come to think of it,what if all these was orchestrat­ed? I think it was!”

  • Matt Gassler

    do ya think he’s fired yet ? lol

  • Tim Brenna

    The driver of this rig told the state troopers he doesn’t know how this happened.He’s obviously hiding things and will probably have a lawyer very soon to fight for his job & traffic violations. He could have killed people in the oncoming lane he crossed and himself..It’ll be interesting how the investigation turns out.Signed:A fellow trucker

    • Ruth

      I agree; something smells rotten about the truck driver’s story. Perhaps a cell phone/texting was involved? His driving records isn’t anyting to brag about, either.

      • "Sleepy"

        my guess he fell asleep or at least was ‘sleepy’. says ‘he doesn’t know how this happened’ yeah ..right!! truth will come out soon.

      • Lanny

        he says “don’t know how this happened’ yea…right!!! my guess he fell asleep or felt ‘sleepy’…and off the road he went. truth will come out sooner or later.

  • Rocket Man

    Through the median, across the westbound, through a ditch, trees and 100+ yards into ice, water and three feet of muck. Dude was flying!!!

  • Gregory Alm

    Since nobody was injured or killed, my guess is that the Truck Driver will only be cited for careless driving, pay a small fine, and be back on the road by Monday morning. However, there will probably be other charges for: Damage done to the Trailer, Costs for the Lake Rescue, Towing, & Clean Up, and the loss of the Target merchandise. Then there are the costs to repair the Driver’s Tractor. Terribly Expensive! I hope that the Truck Driver has a Big, Fat, Commercial Insurance policy that will cover all these costs.

  • Kirk Allen Larson

    Phil Collins with Collins Brothers Towing in Elk River said the “truck and trailer, probably about 40 thousand pounds [total]?” Any Real Truck Driver knows its ’80’ thousand pounds normally but up to ’88’ thousand pounds during the Winter. So the truck was only half full, the semi driver was only half awake or the tow truck driver was only half right? Stick to towing.

  • Kirk Allen Larson

    East bound and down, Loaded up and Truckin’
    Awe gonna do what they say can’t be done
    We’ve got a Long way to go and a Short time to…………..blurp……SPLASH.

  • Bud

    Sounds fishy to me….. lol

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