Emergency crews were called at 3:15 p.m. Thursday after the Muskegon man fell through the ice about 100 yards out onto the bayou off the Grand River in Grand Haven Township, officials said. The 61-year-old man had entered the ice from a county park access off Bignell Drive.
Another fisherman crawled out on the ice and used a metal pole to get the man to safety, said Sgt. Cal Keuning of the Ottawa County Sheriff’s Department. The man was taken by ambulance to North Ottawa Community Hospital as a precautionary measure, said Sgt. Brian Buter of the Sheriff’s Department.
Officials did not immediately release the man's name.
Steve Tucker of Grand Haven was fishing on the ice-covered bayou when the man approached him.
“He walked up to me and talked to me a little bit,” Tucker said. “He got a couple hundred yards away and broke through.”
Tucker said he had a flotation seat and tried throwing it to the man in the frigid water, but the man couldn’t reach it. The Grand Haven man said he also tried crawling over to the man in peril, but stopped when he heard the ice start to crack.
Tucker said the man was able to pull himself partially out of the water, but the ice kept breaking around him.
“His head was under a couple of times, but he popped back up,” Tucker said.
Tucker called 911 and said emergency dispatchers told him to go up to the road so rescue crews could find them.
“I kept trying to keep an eye on him,” Tucker said.
In the meantime, another fisherman arrived on the scene.
“My buddy, Mike Pelton, helped him out,” said Joe Babbitt, who came over from his Groesbeck Street home to go fishing Thursday afternoon. “When Mike got here, the guy was through the ice, holding himself up on the ice.”
Pelton crawled across the ice and extended his ice spud to the man, Babbit said. Pelton assisted the wet man to the shore, where emergency personnel took him to a waiting ambulance.
Babbitt guessed that the man was in an area where the water was 8- to 9-feet deep, just off the edge of a weed bed.
It was the second call in Ottawa County on Thursday for a man breaking through ice-covered water.
A 78-year-old Zeeland man went on the ice of a pond near 2005 Lakeview Drive in Zeeland Township just before 1 p.m., Keuning said. The man realized the ice was too thin when he created his fishing hole, so he turned around to head back. That's when he broke through, with water up to his upper chest area, Keuning said.
The ice kept breaking, but the man was eventually able to get to a dock where a neighbor pulled him out, Keuning said. The man sought his own treatment.
Keuning warned fishermen and anyone else going out on the ice to be cautious.
"The Department of Natural Resources says 4 inches of ice will generally hold the average person," Keuning said. Eight inches of ice is needed for a snowmobile or ATV.
Always wear a personal flotation device when going out on the ice, Keuning said. Also, take along ice picks and let someone know where you are going.
If you're not sure the ice is thick enough, stay off it, he advised.
“When in doubt, don’t go out,” Grand Haven Township Fire Chief Tom Gerencer said.
Many factors may compromise the safe access to an ice-covered lake or bayou, Gerencer said — including temperature, snow cover, currents and springs.
“Ice will hardly ever be the same thickness over a single body of water,” the chief said. “It can be 2-feet thick in one place and 1-inch thick a few yards away. Anyone that chooses to go ice fishing should always check the ice thickness every 20 feet.”
Ice thickness rules
— 2 inches or less: stay off!
— 4 inches: ice fishing or other activities on foot
— 5 inches: snowmobile or ATV
— 8-12 inches: car or small pickup truck
— 12-15 inches: medium-size truck
Source: Michigan Department of Natural Resources
For more information on ice safety, click here.