‘We were stuck’: Wisconsin fishermen recount ice floe rescue

Midwest

GREEN BAY, Wis. (NewsNation Now) — Shane Nelson and Robert Verhagen were among the 27 people rescued from a floating chunk of ice that broke away from the shoreline in Green Bay, Wisconsin, on Saturday.

According to the sheriff’s office, at around 10:17 a.m., officials received a report that dozens of people —most of them ice fishing — were drifting away from shore on a large chunk of ice near Point Comfort in the Bay of Green Bay.

“That was definitely the first time it ever happened to me,” Verhagen said of his experience during an appearance on “Morning in America“.

Ice fishing is a common pastime in Wisconsin and a mutual friend suggested the men try their luck that day.

“And so we went,” Verhagen said not expecting the events that were about to unfold.

This wasn’t the first time Verhagen had been out fishing on the ice, but it was the first ice fishing excursion for Nelson.

“It was just a really interesting experience to kind of float away on my first ice fishing experience,” he said. “I stepped in a hole. So I mean, it was off to a rough start. And it just seemed to snowball throughout the day.”

Nelson reported hearing a loud noise that sounded like somebody had fired a gun.

“We thought it was interesting, got out of our shanty, took a look and people were yelling on the ice we’re separating,” he said.

“And after about an hour or two of the loud bang, we realized that we were beginning to move,” Verhagen said.

The men “had a couple of underwater cameras” and noticed that “there was that 10-foot gap right away.”

“And it was at that moment, we just knew we were stuck until we got help,” Verhagen said.

The chunk of ice floated about three-quarters of a mile during the rescue and was about a mile from the shoreline by the time everyone was brought to solid ground.

“It’s not a fast pace, obviously, a huge chunk of ice,” Verhagen said.

Authorities said the stranded people were on the separated ice shove for about 90 minutes and that there were no injuries reported. There were also no reports of people falling into the frigid water.

Law enforcement believes a barge that had gone through the bay shortly before the ice breakage may have contributed to the destabilization of the ice.

“I’ll still go again,” Nelson said after his first fishing experience that could have gone really, really bad.

NewsNation affiliate WFRV and the Associated Press contributed to this report.

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