Bob Statz

I suspect most can look to an incident or two where fate might have stepped in to save their lives. For instance: At the last second before pulling out onto a highway, you suddenly note a car streaking by from a blind spot, just missing you, or you slip on an icy sidewalk, just missing banging your head on the pavement.

Some, like me, have had a few incidents where fate saved our lives.

One of those was this:

Several years ago in early December, while working as a reporter for a local newspaper, I was aware of a snowmobile that had partially sunk near some reeds in the middle of Isle Bay. I spotted people on the ice surrounding the accident sight and thought that ought to be covered by the paper as news. Our office told me they had already sent a new news reporter to the scene to take pictures.

Of course, I was leery that the young man could get THE shot needed for the story, so I drove to the bridge leading to Malone Island, departed my car with camera in hand and walked several blocks on what looked like a continuous sheet of solid ice to where the action was.

By the time I got to the scene, all but one of the seven who were surrounding the sunken snowmobile had left. The one remaining was a man I did not recognize, but I noted he had a small row-boat next to him as he surveyed the scene. As I approached the sunken vehicle to get “The Shot” with the Isle water tower in the background, I asked the man standing on the ice if it was safe to approach the snowmobile. As he was telling me to avoid getting near the reeds (because the sunlight near reeds tends to absorb the heat and thus make the ice unsure), I felt the ice give way under my feet, and in a matter of seconds, I found myself standing on the bottom of Mille Lacs Lake up to my chest in ice-cold water and shards of ice.

My first thought was how was I to get back up onto good ice. I quickly realized that was not going to happen since I had no feelings in my lower extremities. The man with the boat, who turned out to be the area’s famous Jim Staricha, told me to stay put as he edged the boat to where I was marooned. He told me to hang on to the back of the boat as he pulled it toward good ice and somehow I managed to pull myself back to safety.

Soaking wet, standing in the cold of a winter day, Staricha and I walked the long haul back to our vehicles on shore. By the time I reached my car, every piece of my clothing was frozen, and I could hardly fit myself into the front seat. I thanked the man who saved me and headed to the Mille Lacs Messenger where I walked into the office to the mirth of those on staff.

Of course, I’d had time to think of how not funny my experience was. I felt how fast one’s body could begin to experience hypothermia, and I also thought of my sense of helplessness as I stood in the frigid water.

Most of all, I realized that had it not been for the fact that the Mille Lacs area expert on extracting people, vehicles and fish-houses from the big lake had been next to me as I went down, I would have experienced my last living moments on this planet.

Indeed, this was an incident where fate stepped in to save me. Then again, some would not call it fate. Some may say that God intervened. Well, maybe so. All I know is this God was good enough to have sent the angel Jim to my rescue … and that is my definition of fate.

Bob Statz is a Messenger staff writer.

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