MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — The desperate screams woke Joni Bauer, of Independence, right out of bed, around 6:45am Saturday morning. At first she thought the noise was coming from the TV, but when she stepped out onto her deck overlooking Lake Sarah, she realized the screams were coming from the water.
Her neighbor yelled that he had already called 911, but the screams told Bauer there wasn’t enough time. So she woke up her husband and got the ladder.
“A few weeks prior, I heard my husband giving my son instructions on how you rescue someone that falls through the ice with a ladder,” Bauer said.
A life in construction taught Bauer ‘s husband, Dan, that his ladder could be a lifesaving tool.
“I’ve seen it, and it works,” said Dan Bauer, who’s lived on the lake for 25 years and is an avid ice fisherman.
Dan Bauer ran toward the broken ice, and found a fisherman nearly drowning.
“I couldn’t see him at first because he was behind chunks of ice, and then I seen something move, and I knew it was him,” said Bauer.
Bauer says he slid his ladder across the weak ice and angled into the 60 foot hole in the ice, where the fisherman was struggling.
“He looked like he didn’t have any hope left,” Bauer said. “I scaled the ladder, crawled out there on the edge of the ladder, pushed it up to him. He said he couldn’t do it, he can’t get out. I didn’t think he could do it, so I grabbed a hold of him a little bit and pulled it out.”
Bauer says the fisherman couldn’t speak and was clearly in shock. Rescue crews soon on scene told neighbors they believed the man would survive.
“His lucky day, mine too I guess, I got to help somebody out,” Dan Bauer said.
“I was pretty proud of my husband, pretty amazed,” added wife Joni Bauer. “I am glad I woke up, and it just feels like someone was watching over him and us.
Dan Bauer emphasized that two other neighbors helped the fisherman too.
The Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office hasn’t’ released the name of the fisherman but says he was treated and released from a nearby hospital.
Investigators say he was on an ATV when he fell through.
This week Hennepin County banned cars from lakes due to the warmer weather and weak ice, but spokeswoman Lisa Kiava says this incident proves that even ATVs and snowmobiles can be a risk in this unseasonably warm winter.
She says Saturday’s near-tragedy is a message to everyone: The cold weather in the past few days can offer a false sense of security and doesn’t mean the ice is safe, even on smaller lakes.