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Paynesville Press - January 30, 2002

Truck recovered from the bottom of Lake Koronis

By Michael Jacobson

Pulling truck out of water The big catch on Lake Koronis on Friday afternoon was a 1988 Ford Ranger pickup that was removed from 72 feet of water in the main bay of the lake.

Curt Newberg of Cosmos and his passenger Robert Schara were driving to an ice fishing spot just after 5 p.m. on Wednesday, Jan. 16, when the truck hit a patch of thin ice and sank. Fortunately, both Newberg and Schara escaped, but the truck quickly submerged and ended in the bottom of the lake.

At the end of this line was a 1988 Ford Ranger pickup truck which went into the main bay of Lake Koronis two weeks ago.

On the fateful evening, Newberg was trying to get to Paul Deadrick's fish house, which was just south of Stone Gate Lodge. Newberg, driving his son's pickup, got on the lake at the Community Park on the south side of the lake and mistook the outlet bridge for the five-mile bridge.

He followed the south shore until he was across from Stone Gate Lodge and then tried to cross the center of the main bay, thinking he was on a well-traveled path from the five-mile bridge to the cluster of fish houses by Stone Gate but in reality he blazed a path across the lake.

They got a little more than halfway when the ice suddenly gave way. "It happened real fast," said Newberg. "Within two seconds, the truck hit and water was up to the bottom of the window."

Newberg barely had time to shout "Get out!" to his passenger, unroll his window, and get onto the ice before the truck sank. Schara was actually in the water, and Newberg had to reach out to him, wait for him to swim over, and help him onto the ice.

Then, cold and wet, they had to walk at least a quarter of a mile towards the lit fish houses in front of Stone Gate.

Someone called 9-1-1, and a commotion grew among the anglers that night. When Deadrick heard that a truck had gone through the ice, "I knew who it was the minute they said something," he explained. He had recommended that Newberg and Schara walk, not drive.

Newberg and Schara warmed up in Deadrick's fish house but then the police on shore needed to see Newberg. Both Deadrick and Newberg regret sending Newberg, who was wet, to shore by four-wheeler, but in the excitement no one thought to do anything else.

After making his trip to shore, Newberg was still cold, and Wayne Hansen offered the use of his hot tub at his home on the south shore of the lake for the men to warm up. "It was quite a night," said Deadrick, who then had to take his friends home to Cosmos. "I didn't get home until almost midnight."

A vehicle in a lake must be removed within 30 days or the county will remove it and charge for actual costs plus penalties.

The removal of the truck started a few days later, when divers from a dive school in Alexandria came down to locate the truck and scout a plan for removing it.

The actual removal was done on Friday, starting in mid-morning and ending with the truck's extraction just after 4 p.m. Divers went down and chained six 55-gallon barrels onto the truck. Then they filled four with air and hooked up air to the other two.

The last two were filled with air once the divers returned to the surface. (The divers get out of the water first because when the truck starts to float it can rise quickly with little control of its movements, posing a danger to the divers.) Once the truck got to the surface, divers had to go in again and attach a cable to the truck.

Since the ice where the truck went in was not thick enough to drive on, the wrecker was parked approximately 500 feet away, to the east, where the ice was 16 inches thick.. Newberg and Deadrick had strung about 500 feet of cable under the ice between the hole where the truck went in and where it was removed and the floating, submerged truck was dragged across by a winch.

Newberg is an avid ice fisherman who normally flies a light plane to his fishing destinations. He was out fishing again a day after the accident and was glad to have the truck out finally, so he could concentrate on fishing again instead of the logistics of the removal operation.

He suggests people check their insurance before driving on the ice. "With wrecking the truck and recovery, it'll cost around $10,000," he said of his financial loss. He does hope to salvage at least parts of the truck, he said.

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