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Montana man rescued after falling through thin ice

| April 8, 2010 9:00 PM

KALISPELL, Mont. - An ice fisherman survived frigid Beaver Lake for almost 20 minutes after falling through the ice Tuesday afternoon before he was pulled to safety by members of the Whitefish Fire Department. The man, whose name was not released, was flown by ALERT helicopter to Kalispell Regional Medical Center soon after 2 p.m. He has since been released.

KALISPELL, Mont. - An ice fisherman survived frigid Beaver Lake for almost 20 minutes after falling through the ice Tuesday afternoon before he was pulled to safety by members of the Whitefish Fire Department.

The man, whose name was not released, was flown by ALERT helicopter to Kalispell Regional Medical Center soon after 2 p.m. He has since been released.

The man, in his 60s, had been out fishing on the thin ice when he fell in around 1:30 p.m.

Hearing screams, a neighbor called 911. Whitefish fire crews were on the scene by 1:53 p.m.

Joe Rendahl, a Whitefish firefighter/paramedic, went into the hole and grabbed the man. Both were hauled out by Garth Dickerman, a Whitefish firefighter and EMT, and Ben Parsons, a Whitefish firefighter and medic, using a rope rescue system.

All three on-ice rescuers wore specialized flotation suits that insulate them from the cold.

"Considering how far out he was, he was fairly lucky," Whitefish Fire Captain Justin Woods said.

Treacherous ice so thin it couldn't support the weight of the rescuers slowed efforts somewhat. Rescuers first walked a little way out, then crawled, before Rendahl had to break through the ice to reach the man stranded almost 600 yards out, Woods estimated.

"It took a little while to haul him across the ice," Woods said.

Once the man was on shore at 2:05 p.m., he was stripped of his wet clothes and wrapped in a space blanket before being flown to Kalispell Regional Medical Center, where he was treated for hypothermia.

"We highly recommend people staying off the ice," Woods added. "It's a bad time of year to be ice fishing or cross-county skiing or walking the dogs out on the lake."

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