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Bemidji man dies after falling through Pike Bay ice on ATV

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Witnesses fishing in the area pulled the ATV driver from the water and attempted lifesaving efforts, but he was later pronounced dead at Cass Lake Indian Services Hospital.

CASS LAKE — An 82-year-old Bemidji man died Friday, Jan. 5, after breaking through the ice with an all-terrain vehicle on Pike Bay.

The Cass County Sheriff’s Office received a report at 11:15 a.m. of an ATV and person in the water on the lake. Witnesses fishing in the area pulled the ATV driver from the water and attempted lifesaving efforts.

Responders transported the victim by airboat and then ambulance to the Cass Lake Indian Services Hospital, where he was later pronounced dead. An adult male passenger, also in the water, was treated at the scene.

An autopsy of the victim is scheduled with the Ramsey County Medical Examiner’s Office. His identity was withheld Friday afternoon, pending notification of family.

Assisting with the rescue and recovery efforts were the Leech Lake Tribal Police Department, Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, Cass Lake and Bemidji fire departments, and Leech Lake and Bemidji ambulances.

Unstable ice

Sheriff Bryan Welk reported ice conditions on Pike Bay and several area lakes are still extremely unsafe due to recent warm weather, wind and rain.

“Even though we have experienced colder weather this week, ice conditions still remain very unstable and poor,” Welk stated in a news release. “Areas that had open water earlier in the week may just have a thin layer of ice on them now and are not safe enough for travel. It is extremely important to check ahead when traveling on the ice.”

No ice can never be considered “safe ice,” the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources says, but following these guidelines can help minimize the risk:

  • Always wear a life jacket or float coat on the ice (except when in a vehicle). 
  • Carry ice picks, rope, an ice chisel and tape measure. 
  • Check ice thickness at regular intervals; conditions can change quickly. 
  • Bring a cellphone or personal locator beacon. 
  • Do not go out alone; let someone know about trip plans and expected return time. 
  • Before heading out, inquire about conditions and known hazards with local experts. 
  • Parents and guardians should talk with their children about staying away from the ice unless there is adult supervision. This includes lakes and rivers, as well as neighborhood ponds, retention ponds and anywhere ice forms.