Many Minnesotans Make Dangerous and Deadly Mistake on Ice

Updated: 01/28/2013 4:01 PM KSTP.com By: Beth McDonough

A rising number of Minnesotans are making a dangerous and sometimes deadly mistake on the ice.  

As cold as it is standing outside, James Miller shivers, knowing it's even colder in the water. He told us, "I just thought about survival."

When Miller heard the commotion coming from the pond behind his home in Little Canada, he was terrified.  His two sons and a neighborhood friend crawled under a fence to go ice skating.  They were lured by the frozen pond.  It's the kids favorite playground in the winter.  All 3 boys fell through the fickle ice.  Knowing it was a race against time, Miller scrambled to save the struggling boys.

"I seriously thought I was gonna lose my boys because I saw them go under and getting colder," says James Miller.

He came to help, but fell in the ice cold water too. "I could barely stand, I could barely move, the coldest thing, I was terrified of hypothermia."

For good reason, 16 people in Ramsey, Hennepin and Washington Counties have been in dangerous predicaments this winter.  Some as a result of horsing around, others from Snowmobile or car accidents. 

Dr. Jessie Nelson treats folks at Regions Hospital for hypothermia. According to her, "the longer you sit in water, the more likely you're going to succumb to hypothermia."

That's because body heat is lost 25-times faster in cold water, than cold air.  When submerged, she says body temperature will keep dropping until it reaches the same temperature as the water.  Blood pressure drops and all ability to think or swim fades.  That's if your head is above water.  If you're trapped below the surface, like 8 month old Tabitha Markle was in Lake Minnetonka, survival can be measured by minutes.

Tabitha Markle died this week.  James Miller realizes how close of a call it was for his family, "it was the scariest moment of my life."