La Crosse Area Dive Unit practices ice rescue

Dive Unit called for ice rescue 1-2 times per year

With the temperatures hovering above and below freezing over the past few weeks your safety on the ice is constantly changing.

The La Crosse Area Dive Unit is called to one or two rescues each year and Wednesday night they practiced those lifesaving skills.

The dive unit brought some new team members out to practice the basic ice rescue training methods, and News 8’s Kyle Dimke put on his wet suit and took part in the training as well.

Jeff Jensky has been a part of the La Crosse Area Dive Unit for about two years.

“I would say it’s nerve racking, but exciting,” he said.

Jensky said he decided to be a part of this team for one reason.

“I know I’m making a difference in somebody else’s life, whether it’s a rescue or potentially bringing someone back to a loved one,” Jensky said.

The dive unit practiced two things during the training.

“We were working on self-rescues for us and rescuing someone out on the water,” Jensky said.

The dive unit has four methods of rescuing someone. The first one is “reach.”

“If at all possible we want to reach something with a reach pole, a pipe pole, a long stick,” said Kevin Kappauf, dive unit training officer.

The second method is “throw.”

“Throw a rope, throw jumper cables, extension cord, something to the person in the water if we’re close enough,” Kappauf said.

Third is “row.”

“We would use an inflatable boat, a small fishing boat, an air boat, some type of boat to get out and rescue the victim,” Kappauf said.

The final and most dangerous method of rescuing someone is “go.”

“That’s when a person puts on our suit, is tethered back to shore with a rope and they actually enter the water and enter the ice, the dangerous area to try and get that     victim out safely,” Kappauf said.

Kappauf said it’s important to train for all of these types of rescues at all times of the day to make sure his team is prepared for anything.

“Huge difference at night, everything, especially in the winter time, things are going to freeze up and and night everything multiplies by two or three times more difficult,” Kappauf said.

The dive unit was in specialized suits. Kappauf said if someone were to fall through the ice in plain clothes they would only have about 10 minutes before their muscles are too stiff to move. He said after about an hour you will pass out and potentially drown. That’s why he recommends never being alone on the ice and when you are out there, you should always have a tool like an ice pick to pull yourself out of the water.

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources recommends at least four inches of solid, clear ice before anyone walks on it. The best way to check is to actually drill a hole and measure the ice before walking out too far.