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Hennepin County Sheriff: 'No Ice Should Ever Be Considered Safe'

After a rash of vehicles going through the ice in recent days, including one that resulted in the death of an infant, Hennepin County Sheriff Rich Stanek urges residents to review ice safety guidelines.

There have been seven vehicles that have broken through the ice on Lake Minnetonka in four days, Jan. 18-21. Tragically, one incident resulted in the death of an infant, an 8-month-old girl from Minnetrista.  

Related: Baby Dies From Injuries Suffered in Friday Accident on Lake Minnetonka

The Hennepin County Sheriff's Office reminds residents that no ice should ever be considered safe. Residents are urged to review these safety guidelines:

  • Despite the recent cold weather, channels of Lake Minnetonka remain dangerous and should be avoided. A vehicle, such as a car, truck, or SUV, should NEVER be driven through a channel. The weak ice in a channel is due to water constantly running from one bay to another bay.  The friction of the running water causes the ice to weaken.
  • Channels should also be avoided by people on foot, snowmobiles, and ATVs.  A snowmobile or ATV also have a high likelihood of going through the ice on a channel. 
  • Pressure ridges should be avoided at all times due to a false impression that the ice is stable. All vehicles including cars, trucks, SUVs, snowmobiles, and ATVs should avoid pressure ridges.  People on foot should avoid pressure ridges. (Pressure ridges are compression ruptures that typically form as long cracks on ice sheets.  Plates held under water can erode significantly or even melt away completely, causing unstable ice.)  
  • Anyone using the ice –including people on foot, snowmobiles and ATVs --should use safety precautions such as wearing life jackets.  Sheriff’s deputies wear life jackets when they are on the ice.

Last winter Sheriff Stanek took the unusual step of ordering all vehicles off Hennepin County ice after a rash of accidents was blamed on thin ice conditions. Stanek said Saturday that he was not yet prepared to take a similar step this winter.

Near Plymouth, only one ice-related death has been reported in the last 30 years, which occurred on Medicine Lake. According to a report from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, a 56-year-old fell through the ice while skating and died in 2008.

The DNR's report shows that the most ice-related deaths since 1976 happened in 1981, when 15 deaths were reported in 10 different counties.

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