SUV narrowly misses plunging into the Wisconsin River


At approx. 8:34 a.m. on Monday, Jan. 25, Lincoln County Dispatchers received a 9-1-1 call from the driver of an SUV that had left the roadway and traveled down the embankment, coming to rest on its side on the ice on the Wisconsin River. The driver, who was the lone occupant of the vehicle, was trapped inside. The Merrill Fire Department (MFD) was dispatched to the scene near the 2000 block of West Main Street in the City of Merrill with Engine-62, Squad-64, Med-63, Utility-68, and Med-62 units all responding. Merrill Police Department and Lincoln County Sheriff’s Department also responded to the scene. Based on vehicle tracks in the snow, the SUV appeared to have been traveling westbound on Hwy. 64 prior to the incident, when it left the highway near the turnaround.
Upon arrival, MFD Battalion Chief Scott Krause took charge of the scene and noted “the rear end of the vehicle, about the last foot, was extending out over open water, and the way the vehicle was turned, we couldn’t immediately see the occupant inside.”
Lincoln County Dispatchers maintained contact with the driver and were able to keep the driver calm and advised him to not move around in the vehicle, according to the Merrill Fire Department’s press release regarding the incident.
Krause said firefighters first secured the SUV with the winch from the squad and used it to pull the SUV closer to shore and spin it around slightly. Then firefighters in cold water suits cut the windshield out of the vehicle, and MFD personnel assisted the driver out of the vehicle, up the embankment, and into a nearby ambulance for medical evaluation.

Firefighters in cold water suits removed the windshield of the vehicle and assisted the lone occupant to safety. Merrill Fire Department photo.

The lone occupant of the vehicle, a 41-year-old male, was transported to Good Samaritan Hospital with minor injuries and for further evaluation. Investigation is still pending; however, no driver impairment is suspected according to the MFD and MPD.
“I’m just shocked the ice shelf held the weight of that vehicle,” said Chief Corey Bennett of the Merrill Police Department (MPD), who was also on scene.
“While we train for water rescues, the driver was lucky that the vehicle didn’t go into the water,” Battalion Chief Krause said. It was a narrow miss.
Rod’s Towing was called and removed the vehicle from the ice.
Both lanes of Hwy. 64 from Foster Street to Water Street were closed until approximately 10:30 a.m. and traffic was re-routed via Water Street.

After rescuing the driver, firefighters turned to recovering the vehicle from the ice. Rod’s Wrecking would soon be on the scene to complete the removal. Tina L. Scott photo.

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