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3 rescued from floating ice in Mississippi River

Kelly Humphrey/ Brainerd firefighters pack up equipment after rescuing three people from an ice chunk on the Mississippi River in Brainerd.
Three young men who thought they were taking a walk along the banks of the Mississippi River found themselves trapped on a floating ice chunk late Wednesday afternoon.

Brainerd firefighters scaled a steep river bank off Bluff Street in north Brainerd to reach them, sending out an inflatable banana boat to the men on the ice float.

Brainerd Fire Chief Kevin Stunek said the young men, in their late teens or early 20s, apparently were walking on the river’s edge between the landing by Evergreen Cemetery and north Brainerd when the ice they were walking on broke off and began drifting in the dark river.

The ice chunk, estimated to be 15 feet by 30 feet, got hung up behind the homes on Bluff Street in north Brainerd just past Essentia Health-St. Joseph’s Medical Center.

“One of the people on the ice actually called his mom and his mom called us,” Stunek said.

A homeowner estimated the river is about 5 feet deep where the ice chunk came to a stop, possible hung up on tree stumps.

In recent days the river has opened through the middle with snow-covered ice clinging to the edges.

“It’s a good reminder about ice conditions,” Stunek said. “A good warning.”

He praised the efforts of rescuers, noting the young men were off the ice in about 10 minutes. No one was injured. The young men never were submerged in the frigid waters of the Mississippi. About a dozen firefighters responded to the scene. They accessed the river from steep embankment behind the Yeager residence on Bluff Street. Six firefighters suited up in case they were needed for a water rescue and two banana boats were readied. Crow Wing County Sheriff’s deputies were downstream in case they would be needed. The Brainerd Police Department and North Memorial Ambulance also assisted at the scene.

Melissa Yeager said she just pulled in as rescuers arrived and police officers asked her if she had access to the river. Then she saw the young men stranded on the ice.

“They were just standing there,” Yeager said. She pointed to the lingering ice. “Where it’s dark gray you can see it’s not safe.”

She said the firefighters scaled the crystallized snow on a nearly 100-foot drop loaded with equipment.

“They carried their boats and all their gear down there,” she said. “That was impressive.”

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