Man dies trying to rescue dog from lake
One day before his 20th birthday, Josh Oelfke died trying to save a cousin's dog. Oelfke of Frazee, Minn., fell through an inch of ice on Wettels Lake about 1:15 p.m. Tuesday and remained submerged until a rescue diver found his body at 2:16 p.m....
One day before his 20th birthday, Josh Oelfke died trying to save a cousin's dog.
Oelfke of Frazee, Minn., fell through an inch of ice on Wettels Lake about 1:15 p.m. Tuesday and remained submerged until a rescue diver found his body at 2:16 p.m.
The death prompted officials to warn people to stay off area lakes until safer ice levels develop on the surface.
Becker County Sheriff Tim Gordon said Oelfke's body was found in nine to 10 feet of water. Wettels Lake is nine miles east of Detroit Lakes.
Rescuers immediately attempted to resuscitate Oelfke and continued their efforts during air transportation to MeritCare Hospital in Fargo, Gordon said. Oelfke died at the hospital Tuesday evening, a day short of his 20th birthday.
"He reacted quickly," Gordon said of why Oelfke walked onto the lake. "He was trying to do the right thing and paid the price for it."
The cousin's older lab-like dog ran onto the ice after three deer and fell through the inch-thick ice, said Gordon.
After Oelfke fell through the ice, the cousin paddled into the lake with a canoe to try and save him, Gordon said. A second friend also attempted to help Oelfke by trying to reach him in a paddle boat.
He said the cousin managed to save the dog.
"Don't risk your life even to save a family pet," said Chris Vinton, a conservation officer with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources in Detroit Lakes.
Vinton said frozen lakes and rivers are never safe because ice thickness depends on more than just the temperature. Fish schools, as an example, can thin ice.
With area ice only 1 to 5 inches thick, Vinton said he won't walk onto frozen lakes unless it's necessary for his job.
However, Vinton said he's seen people ice fishing on Leaf Lake and snowmobiling on Big Floyd Lake this week. Both lakes are near Detroit Lakes.
"I didn't check them (the fishermen)," he said. "I'm not going out there. If I do venture on ice, I'm completely prepared and have the assumption that I'm going to fall in."
The DNR recommends at least four inches of ice to hold an average-sized man. It recommends six to eight inches for snowmobiles and 12 to 15 inches for driving.
Vinton and Gordon both warned people to stay off area lakes.
"It's supposed to be 55 degrees today (Wednesday)," Vinton said. "That's not good ice-making weather. I would recommend staying off the lakes."
He said people who don't heed his advice should at least take a life jacket with them onto lakes. Ice spikes and ropes are also good equipment to have while on frozen lakes.
Vinton said people shouldn't panic if they fall through ice into lakes.
"Try to get your elbows on the ice, get your feet behind you and kick hard," he said. "Once you get out, don't stand up. Roll in the direction you came from."
The conservation officer said he understands why people try to save their pets that venture onto frozen lakes.
Instead of walking onto the ice alone, Vinton said people should call authorities for help.
"I would do everything humanly possible to save them, but we want everyone to be home safe at night," he said. "Hopefully we will have no more accidents."
Readers can reach Forum reporter Michael Benedict at (701) 241-5557