Paul Dzwonowski, 42, stepped onto the ice at Twin Lakes where his friends were playing their daily lunchtime game of hockey. As he did, jagged lines splintered beneath his feet in a million directions, leaving him nowhere to go but down.
Dzwonowski, who fell into Twin Lakes around noon Monday, was one of two people in as many days to go through the ice.
"I should have gone skiing instead," said Dzwonowski after the incident. "I knew the ice didn't look right. But I went out anyway 'cause I saw my buddies out there so I figured it was safe.
"It happened so fast. All I was thinking was 'get me out of here.' It was funny though, here I am in the water and I can see across the ice. There's my buddies, skating backwards, having a great time. I thought, 'Oh man, guys, someone see me over here.' "
The water quickly filled up his skates and weighed down his clothes as he waved his arms to get his friends' attention. Realizing they couldn't see him, he tried to get out of the water himself. After three attempts, he finally broke free.
"It was spooky, for sure, being in that water," he said. "Once I was out I just kept crawling toward shore. The whole time I was crawling the ice was still cracking underneath me, and I thought for sure I was going in again."
By this time, his friends had seen the hole in the ice and called for help. An ambulance arrived and checked Dzwonowski for hypothermia. He was back to his job at PNB Engineering by 2 p.m.
Another man, 37, whose name wasn't released, took an unseasonable swim around 1 p.m. Sunday after riding his bike with studded tires across the lake, said police Lt. Walt Boman. The man managed to pull himself out but sustained facial lacerations.
"When you fall through ice it's like falling through glass," said Boman. "These guys were really lucky."
The man was treated at Bartlett Regional Hospital and released, Boman said.
The bike is still in the lake.
City Parks and Recreation Director Kim Kiefer said despite the city's warnings and signs posted around the lakes saying the ice may be unsafe, people still choose to skate there. She said the city cannot and will not monitor the lake because it does not have the staff. The city encourages skaters to use the new Treadwell Arena ice rink in Douglas.
People choosing to ignore warnings posted around the lake need to use common sense, said Boman.
"A couple of days of cold weather doesn't necessarily mean the ice is going to be safe," he said. "Check the ice before you go out there. I mean, good grief, it was all water just a few weekends ago."
If a skater does go into the water, the way to survive is to stay calm and not thrash around, said Capital City Fire and Rescue Capt. Jerry Godkin.
He said a skater should kick with his or her legs while attempting to jump "like a seal," leading with the belly, back onto the ice. The idea, he said, is to distribute the body's weight. Once out of the water, Godkin said, roll toward shore to keep body weight evenly distributed.
Melanie Plenda can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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