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Sartell Man Who Survived 25 Minutes Underwater Tells His Story

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(credit: CBS) Reg Chapman
Reg Chapman joined WCCO-TV in May of 2009. He came to WCCO fr...
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MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — For the first time, we’re hearing from a Sartell, Minn. man who fell through thin ice and spent more than 25 minutes underwater.

Josh Johnson went out fishing on Little Rock Lake in November when the ice gave way. He actually went out there the night before and walked on the ice. He said he thought the ice was safe, so he returned to his favorite fishing spot on Little Rock Lake to be the first on the ice.

“Temperatures got too warm,” Johnson said. “It got to like 50 degrees that day.”

Johnson was 150 feet from shore, where the ice was only 2 inches thick.

“I heard the ice crack and I went down. The only thing I remember seeing was the bottom of the ice from in the lake below … looking up and seeing the ice as I was going down,” Johnson said.

Shane Sabraski and Neil Maidl filled in the blanks for Johnson. They noticed him fishing from far off and drove closer to get a picture of the first ice fisherman of the season.

“When we drove around the lake to get the photo and he was splashing in the water, it was just — I don’t wanna say instinct — but I knew something had to be done before he disappeared forever,” Sabraski said.

The men tried reaching Johnson with a rope, but had no luck.

“You could feel the ice start to shift and we were going to fall through, so we hopped in the boat and then we had to bust ice most of the way. That’s what took so long,” Maidl said.

Johnson was under 10 feet of water for 25 minutes before he was rescued.

“The doctor gave me a five percent chance to live,” Johnson said.

He then spent three and a half weeks in a coma and lost more than 50 pounds.

“When I got up, I couldn’t even walk. I couldn’t do nothing with my legs,” Johnson said.

Johnson is thankful to be home and surrounded by his wife — and new best friends.

“I couldn’t ask for better guys to help me,” Johnson said.

Johnson will be rehabilitating for a year and he won’t be able to work. There’s a benefit fund set up at any Wells Fargo bank, if you’d like to help his family.

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