Minn. DNR warns parents of ice danger to children

Published 9:54 am Tuesday, November 22, 2011

In light of a near tragedy in Anoka County this weekend, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is reminding parents to caution their children to stay off ponds, streams and other water bodies that now have a thin coating of ice.

Sunday afternoon, an eight-year-old Oak Grove boy fell through a thin coating of ice on a small neighborhood pond. He was rescued after about 15 minutes in the icy water and treated at the hospital.

“Kids are attracted to ice like a magnet,” said Tim Smalley, DNR boat and water safety specialist. “They just don’t know how much ice it takes to support a person, nor what is or isn’t safe.”

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As of Nov. 21, no ice in Minnesota has been reported by DNR conservation officers as consistently four inches thick, the recommended minimum thickness for walking and small group activities. Ice safety guidelines also recommend a minimum of five inches of new, clear ice for snowmobiles and ATVs, and eight to 12 inches for automobiles.

Children often go outside to play during the holidays — while meals are prepared — and they can stray onto unsafe ice.

“Some years we receive reports of children falling through ice and drowning around the holidays, it’s just so incredibly tragic,” Smalley said. “Since records have been kept, a quarter of those who die by falling through the ice are nine years old or younger.”

Smalley said children should not go out on the ice without adult supervision, even when conditions improve.

Last winter, four adults died falling through ice.

The DNR recommends contacting a local bait shop or resort at the destination lake to find out if ice is safe for the planned activities.

Winter sports enthusiasts can obtain a free packet of ice safety information by calling DNR Information Center at 651-296-6157 in the Twin Cities area, toll-free 888-646-6367 or e-mail boatandwater.dnr@state.mn.us.