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DNR Officer Risks Hypothermia to Save Man Who Fell Through the Ice

Blanch Lake
Co Jeffery Ginn

The DNR is reminding people to use caution out on the ice after a daring rescue Sunday on Blanch Lake in Newaygo County.

They say a 21-year-old Grant man and the DNR conservation officer who saved him had to be treated for hypothermia, but have now been safely released from the hospital.

Three officers responded around 3:20 p.m. after a 911 caller said a man walking on the ice had fallen through. The DNR says the part of the lake he fell into is 15 to 20 feet deep.

Wearing a floatation device, Conservation Officer Jeff Ginn crawled on the ice to the open water. The 21-year-old man was clinging to the edge of the inch-thick ice, too weak from hypothermia to swim.

“When I was about 10 feet from the man, I threw him a personal floatation device and a rescue rope,” Ginn said.

The officer tried several rescue methods, but nothing was working. “He was unable to wrap the rope around himself because he did not want to let go of the ice,” Ginn said. “I threw him ice spikes, but he couldn’t reach them.”

Conservation Officer Jeff Ginn

Ginn tried using an ORV to push ice spikes closer to the man, but water started flooding the ice and the officer fell in. He swam to the 21-year-old and got him to hold a floatation device.

The other officers tried pulling the men out with ropes, but the ice kept breaking. Eventually Ginn was pulled out but decided to jump back in to help the man.

“I knew we were going to be in the water for a while, and kept talking to the man to keep him alert,” Ginn said. “I knew if I let go, he’d sink.”

Emergency responders from the Newaygo Fire Department arrived and used an inflatable raft to pull the 21-year-old man from the water. Ginn was able to climb out onto the ice, where he was pulled to safety.

The 21-year-old was in the water for more than 30 minutes. He was taken to a hospital in Grand Rapids and treated for hypothermia.

Ginn was in the water for about 20 minutes and was taken to Gerber Hospital in Fremont, where he was treated for hypothermia and released Sunday evening.

“Going into a long weekend, this is when conservation officers usually see a lot of snowmobile and ice-related activity,” Shaw said. “We hope everyone keeps safety in mind by being cautious on the ice and operating snowmobiles sober and at a safe speed.”

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