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40 people rescued from ice along shore of bay Saturday

Published: Jan. 8, 2022 at 12:51 PM CST|Updated: Jan. 8, 2022 at 10:18 PM CST
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BROWN COUNTY, Wis. (WBAY) - Forty people who were ice fishing have been rescued from a large chunk of ice that broke off from the shoreline in Green Bay Saturday.

The Brown County Sheriff’s Office responded to the call around 10:17 a.m. near Point Comfort along the east shore of the Bay of Green Bay.

“We had a report of an ice shove that broke away from the shore and which a number of people were stranded and drifting out towards the bay,” said Lt. John Bain, Brown County Sheriff’s Office.

The following departments responded to the scene: the Brown County Sheriff’s Office, New Franken Fire, Green Bay Fire, WI DNR and the Coast Guard.

“We ran into issues with ice breaking up as we were rescuing the people. So it’s always a very dangerous event with the cold water and the weather. And we’re really thankful that all the cooperation and teamwork led to a safe rescue,” said Lt. Bain.

The responding agencies were able to rescue everyone stranded out on the floating ice by noon. During the rescue, the ice floated about three-quarters of a mile from the shoreline. Although the ice remained ‘fairly stable’, Lt. McAuly said the ice’s condition was deteriorating rapidly and cracking up as it moved into open water.

No one was hurt during rescue operations.

Lt. Jason McAuly said by the time everyone was rescued, the floating ice was about a mile from the shore. Multiple agencies responded to help, including the U.S. Coast Guard out of Sturgeon Bay. Lt. McAuly said the Coast Guard’s ability to carry up to eight people, along with rescue personal, on their airboat helped speed up the rescue.

Authorities believe a barge traveling through the bay may have led to the ‘destabilization of the ice’ before it actually broke off from the shore, stranding dozens.

“We launched our ice boat, along with a Coast Guard ice boat, and Green Bay Fire and Rescue assisted with a drone and everyone assisted with manpower,” said Lt. Bain.

Deputies from Brown County Sheriff’s Office say there’s a history of ice rescues about once a year on the northeast side of the Bay of Green Bay, and that this incident should serve as a warning for folks to be careful while ice fishing.

“A big part of the reason why the conditions are dangerous is because you don’t always know. You have under currents, winds, and a lot things can develop before people are aware of the actual occurrence,” said Lt. Bain.

For the time being, deputies recommend people stay clear of the area where the ice broke off.

Make sure you always have a cell phone that you can call for help if you need it, be aware of your conditions and know that they can change rapidly, and so that you have an escape route and that you’re ready to make adjustments if conditions deteriorate,” said Lt. Bain.

Although ice rescues happen every year, Lt. Bain says they have never rescued that many people off the ice, at the same time.

“People out on the ice are always encouraged to maintain awareness of the potential deterioration in their surroundings and keep a cellphone or some way of communicating with them in case there is a need to call for assistance,” said Lt. McAuly.

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