MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – Thin ice on a Minnesota lake has claimed another life. An Alexandria man died after taking his 2-year-old grandson for a ride on his ATV.
On Tuesday night, the ATV the boy and his grandfather were riding on broke through the ice on Lake Andrew.READ MORE: Minnesotans Look To The Sky
Sheriff Troy Wolbersen of Douglas County says family members became concerned when James Minnerath and his grandson, Hayden, were late in returning home from an ATV ride.
The family had been celebrating Minnerath’s 50th birthday.
When a neighbor went out to see if he could locate them shortly before 9 p.m., he found a huge hole in the ice, and ATV tracks leading up to it.
“It’s heartbreaking. It was an accident,” neighbor Brad Brejcha said. “I don’t know what else to say. It just breaks your heart.”
Authorities say the thickness of the ice on lakes across Minnesota can quickly change, meaning a trail that was fine yesterday, may be dangerous today.
“The ice doesn’t form uniformly. It can be twelve inches in one area and 2 inches just a few feet away,” Lt. Kent Vnuk of the Hennepin County Water Patrol said. “Furthermore, where we are safe one day we may not be safe the next day.
This winter alone the Hennepin County Water Patrol has been called on 10 times to rescue people and their vehicles that have gone through the ice on Lake Minnetonka.
“Generally speaking, it’s overconfidence with people who think they know the lake, that’s where we see problems,” Vnuk said.READ MORE: Fallen Minnesota Officers Honored With NFTs: 'It's Like A Digital Tombstone'
Wolbersen said that Minnerath’s ATV broke through a very small and isolated area of bad ice on Lake Andrew.
At the time of the accident, no thin ice signs were posted, the sheriff said.
Rescuers say fresh snowfall and darkness at nightfall can add to the danger.
“With that snow, it is covering up holes that might be available, signs can get blown down,” Vnuk said. “It makes it difficult to know how thick the ice is.”
The Douglas County Sheriff’s Office says Minnerath’s ATV was equipped with tracks, a snow plow and an enclosed cab.
It sank to the bottom of the lake in about 18 feet of water.
It’s not clear how long the victims were in the water.
Hayden is being treated at Children’s Hospital in Minneapolis. He is in critical condition.MORE NEWS: Soaking Up The Sun, Safely: How To Best Protect Your Skin, And Spot Skin Cancer
His family has asked for privacy and prayers during this difficult time.