Joshua Johnson was often among the first to check ice conditions on Minnesota lakes, anticipating the start of ice fishing. Saturday, his family held vigil at a Twin Cities hospital as Johnson lay in critical condition in an induced coma after falling through.
Beth Johnson, his wife, said a "very good Samaritan" spotted him in the water of Little Rock Lake not far from their Sartell home on Friday. Authorities said the emergency call came about 11:25 a.m.
The caller told authorities that Johnson was 150 to 200 yards from shore, according to a news release from the Benton County Sheriff's Office.
By the time rescuers were able to reach Johnson, 30, he was submerged, the release said. They found him in about 10 feet of water about 12:20 p.m., and an ambulance took him to the St. Cloud Hospital. He was later airlifted to the University of Minnesota Medical Center, Fairview.
Several emergency agencies — including the Rice police and fire departments, the Minnesota State Patrol and the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources — answered the emergency call.
Investigating deputies found indications that Johnson had been on the lake ice fishing before he fell through. Ice near the shoreline was about 1½ to 2 inches thick.
Beth Johnson said her husband, a father of two with another child due in April, had the day off Friday from his work landscaping and cleaning out foreclosed homes. He is an avid outdoorsman and is familiar with Little Rock Lake, she said.
She was at work Friday when he decided to go there.
"He had time off and wanted to enjoy it, a nice day," she said.
Authorities warned after the incident that even though ice has formed on some Minnesota lakes, there has not been enough prolonged cold weather to make it safe, especially with recent warm weather.
Beth Johnson said Saturday afternoon that she and other family members were "praying and hoping" for her husband's recovery. "That's all we can do right now."