SIREN––Training and quick action saved two Grantsburg men after their vehicle went through thin ice on Wood Lake Christmas Day.
Harley Meyer and Keith Choronzy were rescued from Meyer’s SUV shortly after 5 p.m.
Matt Berg and his son, Noah, were among the people who rescued the two men.
Berg and his family were celebrating the holiday when they received a call from a neighbor. At roughly the same time his son noticed something out on Big Wood Lake. It turned out to be a Chevrolet Suburban and there were two people inside.
“We got the call and almost simultaneously my son, Noah, noticed there was a car partially submerged in the lake,” Berg, a biology teacher at Grantsburg High School said. “I just started grabbing gear and headed out there.”
Berg said he wasn’t sure when he left the house if there were people inside the vehicle or not. He took two life-jackets and about 30 feet of rope.
“I don’t know if Colleen and I even spoke or if it was just understood what needed to be done,” Berg said of his sister-in-law. “She was out there getting everyone organized so that there wouldn’t be too much weight on the ice.”
Berg said it’s all a bit of a blur, but around 5:15 p.m. he went on the ice. He and Noah took a rescue diving course which had a large focus on ice rescues, so he had a decent understanding of what he was supposed to do.
“We saw the first guy (Keith Choronzy) and threw him the life-jacket with the rope attached,” Berg recalled. “He got one arm through the arm hole and we began pulling him in.”
Once they got Choronzy out he was taken into a neighbor’s home and warmed up. Berg’s wife had called 911 right away and the dispatcher was already aware of the situation.
Berg said the second man, later identified as Harley Meyer, was larger and it took more strength and time, but they rescued him the exact same way.
“I estimated it was about three minutes from when we got on the ice to when we had both men out,” Berg said. “Everything was happening and the time felt fast and slow all at once. It was a pretty intense thing.”
Berg explained they knew not to put themselves at risk while saving the other men. He said there were neighbors and ice fisherman helping, he said there was probably eight to ten people all helping out on the ice.
“When we got the second man out, he was very hypothermic and confused,” Berg said of Meyer after being pulled from the vehicle. “He kept forgetting where he was at and believed the first man was still in there. So we were all worried that he might try and jump back in.”
Soon after that two North Memorial ambulances arrived on the scene and took over. Berg said the rescue was a team effort and that everyone involved worked well together.
“I’ve never experienced anything like that before and hopefully never will again,” Berg said. “I was a lifeguard and you train for situations like this, but hope you never have to handle one in real life.”
Check next week's paper for more information on retrieving the truck.