Experiencing a Fall Through the Ice - Valley News Live - KVLY/KXJB - Fargo/Grand Forks

Experiencing a Fall Through the Ice

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Whether it is in car or pickup or simply walking on it, the danger of falling through the ice becomes all too real this time of year. It can take your life in moments.

Valley News Team's Brandon Clark had a firsthand experience of what can happen to a person's body under the supervision of Valley Water Rescue divers.


The nightmare of falling through the ice became something I was about to live through. It all happened very quickly. And once I was in, the clock started ticking.

Valley Water Rescue President Pete Fendt says, "You've got about 60 seconds to help yourself."

That is because after that, your hands become almost useless, especially with how quickly you can lose body heat.

While I could feel the pressure of the water and that it was cold, 36 degrees to be exact, the wet suit I was wearing kept me dry and quite warm.

So my first challenge was to crawl out. I did not succeed right away.

"Instead of trying to pull yourself straight out, try to pull yourself where you kick your leg up," Fendt told me.

After a lot of effort, I was able to get out. 

But how real was this? I was in a wet suit, with everything covered but my face. I needed to face a little more reality. I had to learn that I was now going to lose some of the dexterity in my hands.

I dunked my face in the water. The pain immediately shot through my face. I could barely catch my breath. And I wasn't done yet.

I took my gloves off and stuck them in the water. If I thought I felt pain before, I was badly mistaken. My hands shook uncontrollably, and I quickly lost feeling.

Everything was slow motion. My mind was saying, "Go now," but my hands struggled to keep up.

Eventually, I was able to pull myself to safety. My hands were frozen, just shaking.

Now, it became a race to get me out of my wet suit and warmed up. I could not imagine if my whole body was immersed in the water, how cold that would be. I was also only in the water for about 30 seconds.

In minutes, I had gone from the frigid Red River to the warmth of a truck, something that would only happen with a professional dive team nearby.

If it was not a real fear before, this experience made it blatantly obvious that I never wanted to fall in.


Fendt says two of the best things you can do when out on the ice are wear a float coat, which acts like a life jacket, and have a set of small ice picks. The picks will allow you to dig into the ice and pull yourself out a lot faster.


Think you could survive the challenge, or maybe you've already had a close call? Tell us about it, then be sure to check out the photo slideshow beneath the comments!

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