CROSBY-A 34-year-old Ironton man lost his life Monday after the snowmobile he was operating fell through the ice on Serpent Lake in Crosby.

Authorities received a call about 5:30 a.m. after a Crosby police officer walked out of the police station and heard someone screaming for help, Sgt. D.J. Downie of the Crow Wing County Sheriff's Office's Boat and Water Division said. The officer looked across the lake, saw something shimmering and thought someone could be in water. Crosby Fire Chief Jay DeCent was called and he also could hear the screaming for help.

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Downie said the officer and the fire chief couldn't see anything, so they went to a different part of the lake-a canoe access off Lake and Beach roads near Pump Point-just south of the point where they were previously looking. Downie said they no longer could hear the screams, but a snowmobile helmet was found on the ice. Snowmobile tracks also were found indicating the machine went through the water.

A team of 10 Crow Wing County Dive and Rescue team members responded on scene "fairly quick," Downie said. Due to the cold temperatures and how the ice was freezing over quickly after it was broken through, divers took turns searching for the Ironton man, spending about 20 minutes in the water.

"During the search, we found clothing items, like boots and a coat," Downie said. "We had reason to believe he was in the water. ... We didn't have reports of anyone missing."

The body of the man was located about 1:15 p.m. in about 45 feet of water, about 30 yards from shore on the southwest side of Serpent Lake.

Downie said there was about 5-6 inches of ice on parts of the lake, but there also was open water Sunday.

"The incident today was a tragic example of what can happen when venturing out on thin ice," Capt. Scott Goddard of the sheriff's office said Monday. "Whether traveling by foot, ATV, snowmobile or truck, we must remember that ice is never 100 percent safe. We have a wide range of current ice conditions in our area. Some smaller lakes are reporting 6 and in some areas up to 10 inches of ice while area residents reported the area of Serpent Lake where the snowmobiler when through thin ice (Monday) was open water (Sunday)."

Goddard said cellphones exposed to water often times will not work to call for help. He said some inexpensive items people should have when they go out of the lake are ice picks and a flotation device, which can aid a person in being able to save themselves.

"When in doubt, stay off the ice," Goddard said. "It is not worth your life or the lives of your rescuers."

Assisting the sheriff's office was the Crosby fire and police departments, Deerwood fire and the Cuyuna Regional Medical Center ambulance.

The Ironton man's body was transported to the Ramsey County Medical Examiner's Office for an autopsy. The name of the man is being withheld until authorities contact the next of kin.

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This article from Dec. 11 inadvertently stated the man was from Crosby. The article has been corrected on Dec. 12 to show the man was from Ironton. The Dispatch regrets the error.

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