Posted by Nick Dutton - email
LUCAS COUNTY, OH (WTOL) - 135 people have been rescued from a miles-wide slab of ice that floated away from the Ohio shoreline of Lake Erie.
65-year-old Leslie Love from Franklin County died after falling through the ice. Friends were able to pull him out and perform CPR, but he was pronounced dead on the way to a hospital.
Crews responded to calls for help from a large group of ice fisherman trapped on Lake Erie around 10:45, Saturday morning. The fisherman were spread out over a large piece of ice near Crane Creek State Park. That's near the Ottawa and Lucas County line.
Emergency crews used hovercraft and boats to bring people back to shore. Fisherman with snowmobiles slowed the rescue process as they drove a few miles down shore to get back.
The Ottawa County Sheriff originally estimated 175-300 people were trapped on the ice.
Authorities say fishermen apparently used wooden pallets to create a bridge over a crack in the ice so they could go farther out. But the planks fell into the water when the ice shifted, stranding the fishermen about 1,000 yards off shore.
The National Weather Service says ice on western sections of Lake Erie is up to 2 feet thick, but it started to crack as temperatures rose above freezing and wind gusting to 35 mph pushed it.
A spokesman for the Coast Guard in Cleveland says they don't know if the ice flow is drifting, but that currents are strong this time of year.
Ice fisherman say this winter's thick ice has lured more people to the lake this year. One nearby resident says, "There was a heck of a city out there for the last week and a half."
The Ohio Division of Wildlife says it warns fishermen every year that there's no such thing as "safe ice."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.