Skip to content

Good Samaritans Jump Into Icy Lake To Rescue 83-year-old And His Dog

A peaceful Saturday afternoon in Okoboji, Iowa, was abruptly transformed into a dramatic rescue effort

A tranquil Saturday afternoon quickly turned dramatic as a frantic life-saving rescue unfolded in Okoboji, Iowa, after a Jeep fell through the ice on East Okoboji Lake. The lake, located about 90 miles northeast of Sioux City, Iowa, was covered with ice that was thick enough to support the weight of multiple people, but it was not thick enough to hold the weight of a large vehicle.

Shortly after the Jeep crashed through the ice on Feb. 4, a group of good Samaritans rushed into action to save the driver, later identified as 83-year-old Thomas Lee, and his dog, Cooper.

“I got on the bumper of the rear and tried opening the back door, but all the windows were locked,” said Joe Salmon, a 17-year-old who was one of the good Samaritans to assist in the rescue. “But one guy gave me a knife, and I hit the back glass a couple of times.”

A vehicle that fell through the ice on East Okoboji Lake in Okoboji, Iowa, on Feb. 4, 2023. PHOTO PROVIDED BY DICKINSON COUNTY SHERIFF’S OFFICE

Salmon, who is a high school athlete, was ice fishing at the time before he jumped into the ice water to rescue the man and dog trapped in the vehicle. Corey McConnell, Cody Chester, Kody Harrelson and Chris Parks also sprung into action with Salmon.

Another person in the area at the time of the crash, Tom Gustafson, captured part of the heart-pounding rescue by a drone, including the moment that the driver was pulled from the vehicle.

The good Samaritans that rescued an 83-year-old man and his dog from icy waters in Okoboji, Iowa, on Feb. 4, 2023. PHOTO PROVIDED BY DICKINSON COUNTY SHERIFF’S OFFICE

The water was only 3-4 feet deep in the area where the Jeep fell through the ice, making the rescue easier than if the entire vehicle was submerged.

The Dickinson County Sheriff’s Office posted on Facebook after the incident that the driver was transported to a local healthcare facility and is doing well. The 6-year-old dog is also doing well in the wake of the icy plunge.

Experts say people should use extreme caution when venturing onto a frozen lake. While ice 4 inches thick is enough to support a person, ice needs to be three times that thick to support a small car. For a larger vehicle to safely drive across a frozen body of water, ice needs to be 12 to 15 inches thick.

In north-central Iowa near East Okoboji Lake, it was an extremely cold end to January and start to February, as there was a stretch of seven nights in a row with temperatures below zero. However, temperatures as a whole since the start of 2023 have been about 2 degrees above normal there, contributing to unstable ice conditions.


Produced in association with AccuWeather.

Recommended from our partners