Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project

Man Recalls Terrifying Moment He Fell Through Lake Michigan ‘Shelf Ice'

The man was able to climb out of the water after the incident, an advocacy group says

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A local man is telling his story after a Facebook video was published showing him plunging through the ice and into Lake Michigan recently.

The ice near the shore, known as “shelf ice,” can form along the shorelines of the Great Lakes, and walking on those shelves can be extremely dangerous, according to the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project.

In a video published to Facebook, Johnny Jacobsen is seen dropping through the ice and struggling to climb back out, and although he was fortunate that the water was shallow where he walked out, he had thought he was standing on sand, not on top of the lake’s surface.

“I didn’t even know I was on the ice,” Jacobsen said. “I thought I was on the beach, walking on the beach, then all of the sudden I was in two or three feet of water.”

The Facebook video shows Jacobsen struggling to get back to the icy surface, slipping and grasping at ice as the video rolls.

“I definitely think there should be some warnings or something,” he said. “I had no idea these existed. I thought I was walking on sand.”

“There can be pockets of air that someone will think they are walking on this big hill, and the next thing you know there is an ice pocket they can fall into,” Dave Benjamin of the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project said.

Jacobsen was fortunately okay, and was able to get back to his home to quickly dry off and warm up, but now he’s sharing his story to help encourage people to stay off of shelf ice near the lake.

A very close call for a man walking on what he thought was Lake Michigan’s shoreline in Rogers Park, but it was actually shelf ice. The man’s wife was taking a video as he sunk down and water filled up his boots. He was able to get out, but wanted to warn others about the dangers.

“It’s not a matter of if someone is going to fall through, but when,” he said. “Tragedy can strike and you can get swept into those waves in just a second with no escape. Some beaches in Indiana have put up signs warning of shelf ice, and authorities and experts in Chicago are encouraging residents to stay away from the water’s edge as the winter continues.

Since 2010, there have been 948 drownings reported in the Great Lakes, according to the group. Experts urge the public not to walk out onto shelf ice, and to always use care when walking near bodies of water during the winter.

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