Emergency Crews Hold Ice Rescue Training on Snelling Lake
It's been the deadliest winter on Minnesota ice in more than five years. On Thursday, emergency crews from across the Twin Cities took part in the largest ice water rescue training exercise ever done in the area.
Dozens of injured victims.
Obviously the time is clicking real fast for them," said Dan Harjes, a deputy sheriff with the Washington County Sheriff's Office.
Dozens of first responders.
"We'd start coming in waves," said Stephanie Johnson, a training captain with the Minneapolis Fire Department.
It's a disaster in a dangerous place.
"The ice itself is a hazard," said Sgt. James Gribble, with the Washington County water rescue team.
Thankfully, it's not for real.
It's a training exercise -- a simulated plane crash with more than one hundred passengers on board -- all of them injured and stranded in an icy lake.
"We have multiple simulated souls in the water and on the ice, and the ice is not safe to walk on," Harjes said.
"In case an aircraft would go down, this is exactly what would happen," Johnson said.
The emergency response to that kind of chaos would be complex, with airboats shuttling dive teams to the scene, pulling victims out of the water, and rushing them to a triage station. And while Thursday's incident may have been a drill, there were still very real dangers.
"The safety concerns are there. You don't have to fake that," Gribble said.
This winter has proven that. Five people have died in Minnesota after falling through the ice, and earlier this week, a snowmobiler was rescued from the Rum River in Anoka.
Crews have to delicately maneuver equipment, and divers don insulated, waterproof wet suits, needing to protect themselves before they can save victims.
Thursday's training is invaluable practice.
"It's multiple scenarios over and over again is really what it is. You make one rescue and you go back and then do one rescue," Harjes said.
And while there were no real lives to save on Thursday, there could be at any moment.
"Just to be better prepared, so we have a better understanding of what will be required," Gribble said.
On top of the five people who have died this year, a sixth is missing, and is believed to have drowned. This winter has been the deadliest winter for ice-related deaths since the winter of 2006-2007, when eight people died.