NEENAH, WI (WTAQ-WLUK) — With one of the largest lake sturgeon populations in North America, the Winnebago System brings in people from all over the state.
Due to all that traffic on the ice, officials are reminding those headed for the lake about what you can do to keep yourself safe.
Dive teams across Northeast Wisconsin are prepping for the big weekend ahead.
Neenah-Menasha fire rescue held a seminar for area public safety departments Thursday, which was filled with many emotions.
On February 14, 2009, 9-year-old Savannah Kleinhans and her father lost their life in an ice fishing accident.
“It was just so hard and emotional to stand there and know that there were people under the ice and we couldn’t get at them right away,” said Connie Loew, a first responder.
Savannah, her father and her friend Tiffany, were visiting friends who were sturgeon spearing on Lake Winnebago.
“I’ll never forget it,” said Loew.
While traveling from one shanty to another, their truck broke through the ice.
“I don’t really remember anything at all,” said Tiffany Dombrowski.
By the time rescue personnel arrived, the three of them had already been submerged for more than a half hour.
Tiffany was the only one who survived.
“I view life as a whole new thing now,” said Dombrowski.
Back in 2009, there was no dive team established.
But now with several in the area, officials are highlighting the importance of dive teams.
“If we can recover a person out of the water in that 5-to-15-minute, maybe 20 minutes, their chances are much better for survival,” said Asst. Chief Jim Peglow of Neenah-Menasha Fire Rescue.
He says this year, there have been around six to ten water and ice rescues.
“This ice season, we’ve been pretty fortunate, knock on wood,” said Peglow. “People, when the ice was in poor conditions, were respecting that.”
Loew was one of the first responders that was called to Lake Winnebago back in 2009. She’s also part of the Calumet County Dive Team.
“The lake is not that safe so I hope people are safe and use their heads,” said Loew.
Since then, she says her and Tiffany have gained a bond, like no other.
“We’ve gone to Florida together, I spend a lot of time with her and the little one,” said Loew. “I call her my miracle.”
Now, Tiffany is 21-years-old and is thriving with her 1-year-old daughter, Savannah.
“It’s a miracle,” said Loew. “God was with us.”
“Stay safe, enjoy the weekend out there and good luck to the spearers,” said Peglow.
Neenah-Menasha Fire Rescue says they’ll be adding extra staff and divers over the next two weeks for this year’s spearing season.
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