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Sheriff warns residents to stay off Little Sand Lake

On Monday, the Hubbard County Sheriff's Office issued a public safety warning about open water on Little Sand Lake. (Photo by Hubbard County Sheriff's Office)

A Park Rapids couple is recovering after they went through the ice on their ATV and into the frigid water for about 25 minutes while ice fishing last weekend on Little Sand Lake.

Jason Funk, 46, was airlifted to a Fargo hospital with hypothermia-related conditions that included an increased heart rate and kidney concerns, while his wife, Holly Funk, 41, was taken to CHI St. Joseph's Health and released. The incident occurred on the lake, about seven miles northeast of town, last Sunday about 4 p.m.

The ice was only about two inches thick and the lake about 30 feet deep where the incident occurred, according to a Dec. 14 news release from the Hubbard County Sheriff's Office.

Sheriff deputies arrived at the nearby public access, along with first responders, and began rescue operations. A deputy put on a cold water suit and, with a private citizen, they were able to get the Funks out of the water.

Sheriff Cory Aukes said the deputy grabbed onto the couple and pulled them out of the water, while others assisting hung onto them with ropes and pulled them to safety.

The incident remains under investigation by the Hubbard County Sheriff's Office.

The sheriff has issued a public safety warning about lakes in the area.

"Ice conditions are very good and very poor," said Aukes. "The ice thickness is inconsistent. With the weather we've been having, it's just a little bit too early" to be safe on all lakes.

As for Little Sand Lake, he urged residents to stay off the lake and remember that "lake ice is never truly safe."

On Thursday, Deputy Sheriff/Emergency Manager Brian Halbasch said, "We are hoping to get out there today to mark the spot with thin ice signs."