The deaths of two children and a man who broke through frozen ponds in southeastern Wisconsin have led officials to warn of the dangers of skating or driving on late fall's thin ice.
A 9-year-old girl, Megan Obbink, fell through the ice of a small pond while skating, and her father, Brian Obbink, plunged in trying to save her. About 10 miles away, 12-year-old Cody Lechler was driving a four-wheeler when he broke through another frozen pond.
"I wish it didn't take this to stress that the ice is not thick enough for this yet," said Sgt. Kristy DeBlaey of the Sheboygan County Sheriff's Department. DeBlaey confirmed Lechler's death late Friday.
The ice is likely to be thin and weak at this time, but Deputy Jim Opgenorth said it is always dangerous. "There is no such thing as safe ice," he said. "Does this mean we shouldn't enjoy outdoor sports? No. But any time you're on ice, you're at risk."
Megan had been skating on the pond in Cedar Grove with her 6-year-old sister Friday morning when the ice broke and Megan fell through. When their father tried to save her, he also fell in, Sgt. Doug Tuttle said. The younger sister ran to a nearby home for help, and someone called 911, but it was too late.
Rescuers chopped through the ice to search the pond by boat Friday afternoon, Tuttle said. The bodies were recovered Friday by a law enforcement dive team.
A person who answered the phone at the Obbink home said the family did not want to comment.
The ice on the pond, about 40 miles north of Milwaukee, was less than 3 inches thick.
About 10 miles northwest of Cedar Grove, Lechler had been hunting with a neighbor, Glen Fox, 39, but left the wooded area about 10 minutes before his chaperon, Cascade Police Chief Cory Roeseler said. When Fox emerged, he discovered that his four-wheeler was gone, Roeseler said.
Fox found the all-terrain vehicle floating about 25 feet from shore and tried unsuccessfully to rescue the boy. "I went in [the water] twice, but I just couldn't reach him," Fox told the Sheboygan Press.
Rescuers retrieved the boy, who was not breathing when he was pulled from the water, Roeseler said. Lechler was pronounced dead at Children's Hospital of Wisconsin in suburban Milwaukee.