Mark Stodghill, Forum News Service, Published April 30 2013
Rescued Mississippi man tells of ordeal on St. Louis River iceSUPERIOR, Wis. - Brett Finch is probably moving back home to Mississippi, where the only ice he wants to see is in a drink.
Finch spent much of Monday night in the drink and on ice chunks in the St. Louis River.
The construction worker from Iuka, Miss., said he drove his black Buick out on the ice near the 28th Street boat landing in Superior just because it seemed like a fun thing to do. It wasn’t fun for long.
His car became stuck in the slush, and Finch got out and started walking on ice. “I didn’t look to go swimming; that’s just the way it ended up,” Finch said Tuesday night.
From about 9:30 p.m. Monday until 3:30 a.m. Tuesday, Finch was in and out of the water grabbing onto chunks of ice while hollering for someone to rescue him.
“I just kept climbing up on top of chunks; I laid down on a few of them,” the 5-foot-7, 160-pounder said. “One of the pieces I was on was pretty brittle. I was scared to move because I was right next to open water. Fog was moving in and it was getting darker.”
He was wearing jogging pants under his blue jeans, a cutoff T-shirt, a denim shirt, insulated jacket and construction boots.
Finch repeatedly hollered into the darkness: “Help! Somebody help me!” For just an instant he thought he might be in a life-and-death situation. But he didn’t want to call it that. “I’d call it a learning experience,” he said. “Don’t go treading on thin ice.”
Finch said he learned that the person who heard or spotted him in the middle of the night — leading to his rescue — was a man who had gotten in a fight with his wife and she had kicked him out of the house. “He was down there gathering his thoughts when he saw me,” Fitch said. “He flashed his headlights on and off and I knew he saw me.”
The Superior Fire Department received the man’s call at 2:57 a.m. First responders made voice contact with Finch and determined his general location.
Superior Deputy Police Chief Matt Markon said Finch had been drinking, but police administered a preliminary breath test and his alcohol level was well below the legal limit to drive.
Superior police, Gold Cross Ambulance and the St. Louis County Rescue Squad assisted in the rescue of Finch, who was surrounded by open water, about 300 yards from shore. The victim was showing signs of hypothermia when rescued.
The fire department said the airboat provided and operated by the St. Louis County Rescue Squad was crucial in reducing the time it took for the rescue effort. The scene was cleared by 4:25 a.m.
Finch was transported by Gold Cross ambulance to St. Luke’s hospital, where he was treated and released. He said he had cuts and scrapes on his hands and blood blisters from grabbing onto ice chunks.
“The rescue people did a great job and I just hope they know how glad I was to see them,” Finch said. “They did things the right way. I don’t know how often they get to use their skills, but I’m sure it’s too often. They did a really good job — from the guy who heard me all the way to the firefighter who was the first one that got near me and made sure I was doing OK. The police officers were courteous and professional and understanding. The nurse at the hospital was great.”
Finch said he’s only been working construction in the region a couple of weeks, but he’s had enough of spring here.
“I think I’m going back to Mississippi,” he said. “I’ve had enough of this snow and ice the last couple weeks. I’ve seen all I care to see of it.”