A Yamaha Wolverine X4 side-by-side broke through the ice on Pokegama Lake early in the morning, Dec. 22, 2019, and was pulled from the five days later by Jerry’s Tree Service and 24-Hour Towing, on Friday, Dec. 27, 2019.
The owner reported it to Barron County Dispatch at 2:42 a.m. on Dec. 22, 2019, noting that everyone was okay and no rescue was needed. The owner told dispatch that it was only half-submerged and they would return later to retrieve it. Apparently the ice broke and the side-by-side sank completely beneath the ice. It was south of Meadow Island, on the west side of Pokegama Lake.
The machine, weighing about 1,700 pounds, was in about 13 feet of water, said Britt Hodgson, of Jerry’s Tree Service, which was called in to retrieve the side-by-side with their specialized equipment. It had flipped upside down and sunk about 3 feet into the mud on the lake bottom.
Hodgson noted that there are layers of slush and weak ice, about a foot thick, but the only good, solid ice—4 inches thick—was at the bottom. This year’s weather has not been great for making good ice and conditions have worsened with above-freezing temperatures and rain the past few days.
“After all this rain and snow, I wouldn’t recommend driving, or even walking on it,” Hodgson said. “Or if you are, know where you are walking.”
Hodgson said he noticed water on top of the ice near the Long Bridge was flowing into a 5-foot hole. “It’s not a good year for ice.”
Called to pull out the machine, Hodgson marked the spot after he found it with an underwater camera. On Friday, he and his crew cut a large hole in the ice above it, then used long, specially designed poles and the underwater camera to lasso the side-by-side’s hitch. With the poles, they can reach vehicles up to 25 feet underwater. Any deeper, they also use scuba divers.
The Chetek Fire Department was briefly at the location to do cold water diving training.
Using winches on a custom-built crib, the Jerry’s Tree Service crew lifted the side-by-side from the bottom. Once above the water, they used snowmobiles to pull the crib and side-by-side onto solid ice.
Hodgson wasn’t sure if the machine would be salvageable or not. If it was a car, it would likely be totaled due to interior damage. He said it would be up to the owner’s insurance to make that decision, but at a price tag around $20,000, it could go either way, Hodgson said.
The owner of the side-by-side could not be reached for comment.