LAKE MINNETONKA, Minn. (WCCO) – Tabitha Markle — just 8 months old — died after her family’s car plunged into Lake Minnetonka on Friday.
And since Friday, 15 other people have had to escape from six other sinking cars on Lake Minnetonka.
Why? Because even with frigid temperatures, this weekend has been especially dangerous on the ice.
“People think, you got a dozen inches of ice, you can go where you want to go. That’s just simply not the case,” said Hennepin County Sheriff Rich Stanek.
While it seems almost silly to talk about dangers of thin ice after the coldest day in four years, Stanek says the number of cars recently going through the ice may make you think twice.
Because of the lack of snow on the lake, Stanek said, people are more likely to travel on dangerous areas.
Stanek says it’s especially important to take caution when passing through channels — water running from one bay to another bay causes ice to weaken.
“You get pressure ridges from the ice itself, and those are a little harder to tell,” Stanek said.
Another factor in at least two of the seven cases so far has been alcohol. There have been two DWI arrests. The father who lost his daughter after going through the ice submitted a blood test to investigators who suspect he’d been drinking.
What’s the factor Stanek sees in every case?
“The people who live in Minnesota who think, ‘This can’t happen to me,’ – think again,” Stanek said. “Yours or somebody else’s life may be at stake.”
Final tips – drive slow on the ice, roll down your windows and don’t lock your doors.