Snowmobiler rescued from Red with dog leash by three out for a walk
GRAND FORKS - Steve Rand was walking with his two young daughters along the East Grand Forks side of the Red River near the dam on the north side today shortly after noon when he saw three people running down to the river's edge.
He didn't know it at the time, but it was East Grand Forks Police Officer Tony Reznicek, his wife, Shannon, and his mother, Peggy, going to help someone.
Rand walked closer to see what was happening.
What had happened was that two men had driven snowmobiles over the dam.
"I saw one guy pushing off a snowmobile, from on him, I guess, and he walked through the water on the rocks (of the dam) to the shore," Rand said.
Rand then saw where Reznicek was walking: "Over to the hole in the ice, where a guy was in the water, holding on to the edge of the ice."
Rand went out on the ice, too, to help. His daughters helped tend on shore to the dogs Reznicek had been walking.
The man, who is 36 and from Grand Forks, was "bobbing up and down," where the river's flow over the dam kept open water, Rand said. "He had one glove off, and was holding on with just one hand. He said he couldn't feel his legs at all."
Reznicek and Rand looped the leash around the man, under his armpits, and with help from Peggy Reznicek, slowly pulled the man out.
"He is a big guy," Rand said. "He was very thankful."
Ginger Rand, hearing the police sirens at their nearby home in East Grand Forks, came looking for her family and ended up helping warm up the rescued snowmobile driver as emergency workers arrived.
"He said, 'My wife is going to kill me,'" Ginger said.
It was a close call, and it's hard to believe the man could have lasted longer in the frigid water, Rand said. "He said he couldn't move his legs at all. I don't know how he held on to the ice."
It took a while for the three of them to get the man out. "At first we couldn't pull him out," Rand said.
Once out, the man knew what to do, Steve and Ginger Rand said. He removed his soaked clothing, his snowmobile jacket and pants.
Two ambulances from Altru Hospital arrived at the scene on the Grand Forks side of the river, then quickly drove around to where the man was lying on the East Grand Forks side. the man was placed inside a big warming bag, and carried up the river bank to an ambulance.
Rand said he got a little wet during the rescue, but soon was chipping ice from his driveway in the warming sun.
"I don't even know how he was able to hang on," Rand said.
Shannon Reznicek, wife of police offier Tony, helped the first snowmobiler who was able to walk along the top of the dam, in shallow, running water, once he got to shore. That man, 23, also is from Grand Forks, according to East Grand Forks police.
The Polk County Sheriff's Office is leading the investigation into the accident. It's not known if anyone will be cited. The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources also has some jurisdiction over snowmobiling on rivers. According to East Grand Forks Police, Reznicek saw the accident happen, and the drivers ejected from the snowmobiles.
Snowmobilers experienced with running on the Red River, say it's very difficult to see the dam ahead from the level of the ice. But there also are several large signs warning of the dam approaching.
The tracks in the snow told the tale today: both snowmobiles headed straight up to the dam before one, it appears, tried to swerve.
That apparently led to the green Arctic Cat still lying upended on the dam's downside.
If not for an off-duty policeman out walking his dog, and a neighbor out for a walk, the accident could have had a bad ending, Rand said.
Police from both cities responded, as well as fire fighters, and deputies from the Polk and Grand Forks counties.
No helmets were recovered from the scene, police said; it's not known if the men were wearing them.
Both men, going north on the river, hit the dam and were ejected from their snowmobiles. One snowmobile remains on its side, skies jutting up, in top tiers of rocks on the downside of the dam, in rippling water.
The other is at the bottom of the river.