A cool way to spend a January day

Folks gather on frozen Big Wood Lake to watch recovery of sunken SUV

Priscilla Bauer | Staff writer
GRANTSBURG – Folks watching as the crew began setting up their equipment on the ice around the spot where a vehicle sunk on Christmas Day afternoon could be heard saying, “This is really cool” and they weren’t just talking about the bone-chilling breeze whipping across Big Wood Lake on Jan. 7.

It was indeed cool to watch as Karl Anderson and his crew from Anderson Repair of Grantsburg, and the Interstate Divers from Clear Lake went about the process of exhuming a submerged SUV from its watery grave with exact precision. For safety everything had to be carefully calculated before the GMC Yukon could be pulled up and out of the frozen lake.
Before the crew began their effort in earnest Anderson offered a prayer asking for the safety of the crew and giving thanks the occupants of the vehicle had been rescued from the frigid waters.
Since the accident several days of below zero temps made for much thicker ice (over 12 inches) and therefore a much safer recovery operation.
The first order of business was sending a camera down through a hole in the ice to see what position the truck was in. The crew soon learned the SUV was sitting front first at a depth of 28 feet.
Next a special pontoon Anderson built for this type of recovery called the FIRM which stands for Floatable Ice Recovery Machine was brought out on the ice and placed above where the vehicle was resting.
As the crew began cutting a huge block of ice out of the lake to make the opening from which the vehicle would be pulled up through more folks arrived to see the show and to enjoy the free food provided by the Andersons.
The big chunks of ice quickly became an instant draw for photo opts. One woman even remarked she thought the ice was so beautiful she thought about taking a piece home and putting it in her yard.
Even though everyone present knew this endeavor was serious business the mood on the ice was lighthearted.
Soon the dive team was busy cutting their own hole in the ice and covering it with an ice shack setting up what would be the entry point for their dive over to the truck.
Once in the water two divers set about the task of hooking the cables attached to the FIRM to the back of the truck.
Spectators waited with anticipation and phones in hand to snap a photo at the moment the vehicle emerged from the lake.
After the back portion was brought to the surface the divers then made another dive to attach cables to the front so it could be raised.
With the afternoon sun as backdrop the vehicle now hung suspended above the hole.
As the FIRM holding the truck was pulled away by a Jeep and Anderson’s tracked vehicle the crowd let out cheers and applause.
For those who had braved a wicked wind to stand on the ice, many for several hours, to see this remarkable recovery up close and personal most found it to be a very cool way to spend a January Sunday.