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Man escapes, dog dies, when pickup goes through lake ice

By Nathan Bowe / DL Online

A rural Detroit Lakes man escaped but his dog died when a pickup truck when through ice on Rock Lake Sunday morning.

Stephen Sperl, 49, was driving a 1998 Toyota Tacoma about a half-mile from shore when the truck broke through near what authorities believe was a pressure ridge. Ice thickness near pressure ridges can vary greatly.

According to the Becker County Sheriff’s Office, Sperl and his black lab were going ice fishing when the truck broke through about 7:40 a.m. He jumped out but the dog didn’t follow. Before he could reach the dog, the pickup sank in about 16 feet of water.

The Minnesota DNR is urging people to use caution when venturing onto a frozen lake or pond.

Four inches is the recommended thickness for walking on ice, but water safety specialist Kara  Owens says the ice coverage varies around the state.

She says a lake could have six inches of ice in one spot, but 10 feet away it's only an inch thick.

Owens says vegetation, a spring, or a school of fish could contribute to making the ice thin or brittle.

The ice is thicker in northern Minnesota, but snow in the forecast this week could worsen those conditions.

At least 5 inches of lake ice is recommended for snowmobile or ATV use.

Eight to 12 inches is recommended for a car or small pickup, while 12 to 15 inches is recommended for a medium truck.

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