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Men escape vehicle as it plummets to bottom of Lake Erie

Alex Green • Feb 2, 2014 at 12:19 AM

Two men drove their SUV out onto a frozen Lake Erie Friday morning, narrowly escaping an icy plunge into the dark waters.   


Their Subaru SUV didn’t fare as well — it now sits at the bottom of the lake. 


Coast Guard crews said they plan to continue investigating the incident to determine if the driver will face criminal charges. 


The driver and passenger headed out onto the Lake Erie ice in their SUV at about the same time a Coast Guard rescue crew was participating in a funeral motorcade for fallen firefighter James Dickman. 


The vehicle was about a quarter of a mile off Catawba point when at about 10 a.m. it began to fall through the ice. The men, whose names were not released, escaped and made it to shore before the truck was completely submerged, Coast Guard officials said.


The truck now presents a pollution risk as it sits at the bottom of the lake, gas leaking from its tank, Coast Guard crews said.


“The Coast Guard will do everything we can to minimize the pollution risk as we await the salvage plan from the vehicle’s owner,” said Lt. James Long, chief of response at Marine Safety Unit, or MSU, of Toledo.


A historic winter in Northern Ohio has dramatically increased ice activities, bringing with it plenty of trouble. 


On Jan. 20, an ice-breaking operation near the islands was halted because of recreational fishing on the ice. The ice-breaking was intended to clear a path for vessels delivering supplies to a Put-in-Bay project.


The Coast Guard has issued repeated warnings about the dangers of ice activities, particularly ice fishing.


“If you do venture out on the ice, exercise extreme caution,” Long said. “We also want people to remain vigilant to the weather and ice conditions, as these two men were very lucky not to have fallen through.”


Days that seem good for ice activity can quickly change, rescue crews said. 


The Coast Guard uses the acronym “ICE” — information, clothing and equipment — as it reminds people to exercise caution. 


Information applies to checking the weather and ice conditions, as well as telling a friend of your destination.


Recommended clothing and equipment includes ample warm-weather clothing, and a marine radio, personal locator beacon, life jacket, compass or GPS, screwdrivers or ice picks.

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