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On Thin Ice: A look into recoveries on Lake Okoboji

What happens during ice recoveries on Lake Okoboji?

Shawn Rooney attended this year's University of Okoboji Winter Games.

While on the lake, the trailer on his truck fell into the ice.

Four days later, it is being recovered by a special team of people: Okoboji Underwater Recovery Specialists, owned by Robert Kirschbaum of Bob's Repair and Tow in Spirit Lake, and his sons... Jason and Josh.

Whenever a call comes in about a car stuck or submerged in the ice, the team springs into action.

Typically there are seven crew members involved in one rescue, but plenty of work goes into it before the car comes up.

"Once we get there, we scope things out. said, Kirschbaum. We check the ice first because you don't want to show up and then drive a vehicle out and you drop a vehicle in."

According to the National Weather Service, ice needs to be over twelve inches deep for trucks to drive safely on it.

Now once at the scene, everyone wears life jackets or float coats in case the ice breaks. Each person involved in the rescue also wears cleats to grip the ice better.

Robert Kirschbaum says everyone on his team wears GPS trackers, too, for that reason.

"There's no room for error. There's no room for margin out here. You are standing on frozen water, so you have to know what you are doing, and anticipate a problem hopefully before it happens!"

When it comes to an ice recovery, this team needs to be ready for anything!"

Anything including diving into the frigid waters.

Jason Kirschbaum is one of the partners of Okoboji Underwater Recovery Specialists, but he is also a diver with the team.

Divers carry nearly 50 to 60 pounds of extra weight in equipment when going underwater, in order to overcome the force of buoyancy.

One piece of equipment changes from dive to dive, and that's the suit they wear.

But what about when the dive lasts longer than that?

They would instead use what's called a gumby suit.

"That you can actually sit in the water for four, six, eight, even ten hours if you wanted."

In my short time in the icy waters of Lake Okoboji, I stayed completely dry and warm.

With any rescue safety is the biggest concern.

But patience and teamwork lay the foundation for successful recoveries.

Rooney felt it was important to be here when the team freed his car from the ice.

The number of vehicles recovered by Okoboji Underwater Recovery Specialists changes from year to year, and that is due to how the ice freezes each year at the start of winter.

The vehicles recovered range from ATVs to trucks, and the group more recently pulled up a Lexus from the waters.


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