NISSWA -- Imagine vacationing in the Brainerd lakes area and stumbling onto a partly submerged vehicle with a man splashing inside.
For Jay Anderson, a 28-year-old snowmobiler from Shell Lake, Wis., that scenario was all too real Friday afternoon.
Anderson, who is staying at a Gull Lake resort, was riding his sled about 1 p.m. Friday north of Holman Point Drive and about a quarter-mile west of the Gull Lake public access near Hole-in-the Day Bay when he discovered the mostly submerged Pontiac Bonneville.
"I just came through with the snowmobile and saw the car there. I was kind of scared," Anderson said. "I saw him splashing around in there."
He flagged Larry Mortenson, who was driving on the ice on his way out fishing, for help. Mortenson, a Nisswa and Lake Shore First Responder, went to shore to call for help.
Anderson crawled up to the car but was afraid if he got near it the vehicle would sink. He went to a nearby residence and grabbed a piece of dock. He slid the dock section up to the vehicle so that it would support his weight and he wouldn't sink the car. Anderson then opened the car door.
The victim, Kent E. Johnson, 79, Brainerd, reached out to Anderson. "He put his hand out and I grabbed it," Anderson said.
About this time, Rob Johnston, a Crow Wing County sheriff's deputy, arrived on the scene. Johnston, who was driving to the Law Enforcement Center from Pequot Lakes, happened to be within a half-mile of the Highway 371 Gull Lake public access when the emergency call went out to emergency personnel.
With Johnston's help, Anderson was able to pull Johnson out of the icy water. They then tried to warm Johnson until other emergency personnel arrived on the scene.
"We pulled him the rest of the way out of the water and got him medical attention as quickly as we could," Johnston said.
He commended Anderson for his efforts.
Anderson said Johnson did not verbally respond after he was pulled from the water although the man was moaning. "I tried to keep him warm," Anderson said.
In addition to the sheriff's department, other agencies that responded included the Nisswa and Baxter police departments and the Nisswa and Brainerd fire departments as well as North Ambulance.
The Johnson vehicle fell through thin ice created recently by an ice heave.
Johnson was transported by air ambulance from St. Joseph's Medical Center to North Memorial Medical Center, Robbinsdale. He is in critical condition.
Jason Boelter, a Nisswa police officer, said at the scene Friday afternoon, "This guy's survival has everything to do with people getting out here -- a quick response -- and Jay."
Brainerd Dispatch ©2013. All Rights Reserved.