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Falling through the ice: How one Madison man survived

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One Madison man's story may make you think twice before going out on the ice.
He's lucky to be alive to tell it, after falling into Lake Mendota, and finding himself in 15 feet deep of bone chilling water.
All alone, out on the ice getting ready to fish; that's when Dan Hovey's life forever changed, falling through the ice, not able to call for help; spending 25 minutes in the potentially deadly temperatures.

"I thought when I first went in, no problem, I'll get out," said Dan Hovey. Dan Hovey will never forget that December day, five years. A routine ice fishing trip on Lake Mendota, that almost took his life. "With the sun in my eyes, I walked out about 100 yards, I took a left, as soon as I took a left, maybe 10 steps later, I was in," he said.

Scrambling to get to the surface, saved for the moment by a life preserver; wanting to scream for help but his body- already in shock. "I think it took a while for somebody to actually notice that I was in," he said. Dan spent nearly 25 minutes in the water, eventually being pulled out with a rope by a fellow fisherman. Unable to stand, talk, or even think clearly. "When I got out of the water and up here on shore, I had icicles all over me," he explained.

He then changed clothes and eventually drove home. We asked, "do you remember driving home at all?" He answered, "not much." He may have been out of the water, but he was far from out of danger, still not able to make rational decisions. "They might be confused, disoriented or lethargic, and it might make it difficult for the person to make the best decision," said Emergency Room Physician at Meriter Hospital, Jeff VanBendegom.

So, it was Dan's wife that made the decision for him, to take him to the emergency room. "As soon as she came through the door and saw me, she knew something was wrong," he said. Being admitted with a body temperature of 91 degrees. "Hypothermia as a diagnosis really sets in when a body temperature drops below 95 degrees," explained Dr. VanBendegom.

Dan knows he was lucky that day, surviving what many have not. He explained, "I think I got a second chance." Dan says he's cut down on his ice fishing. He used to go a couple times a week, and now he says he only goes out on the ice maybe two or three times a year, specifically on areas where he knows the ice is at least 5" thick.


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