By JoDee Brooke of the Banner Journal
Bruce’s Legacy Director Keith Cormican and fellow diver Ed Davis wasted no time in heading to Montezuma, IA, to assist in the recovery of a 57-year-old man who had gone through the ice on Lake Ponderosa while riding his UTV. The man and a fellow fisherman friend were headed back off the ice Saturday (Dec. 14 around dusk. The first machine made it to shore. The second machine was following behind when the front end of the UTV dropped through the ice about 100 yards from shore. The two friends grabbed hands as the machine fell into 14 feet of water.
“There is no dive team in that county,” explained Cormican. “From what we were told, the 9-1-1 call came in around 6:30 p.m. The first dive team from two counties away arrived around 10 p.m. They only had a couple of divers trained for ice diving, which in this case by now was a recovery.”
Two other dive teams showed up by Sunday and continued searching until Monday. They had located the UTV but not the fisherman.
A friend of the family contacted Cormican Monday morning conveying the initial dive teams had done all they could do. Poweshiek County Emergency contacted another dive team from southern Iowa. Team members arrived from Red Oak, IA, Monday afternoon.
“I knew the body had to be within 20 feet of where he went through,” explained Cormican. “I talked with members of the other dive teams, and they explained they had little visibility and almost none once they stirred by bottom of the lake. In any ice conditions, there should be some visibility if they just swim along the bottom.”
Emergency management placed a call to Cormican Tuesday morning asking him if he could assist. Cormican and Davis arrived later Tuesday afternoon after traveling icy roads and coming upon semis in the ditch.
“I kept thinking, they’re going to call any minute and tell us they found him.”
“I talked to the other divers when we got there,” said Cormican. “We knew the UTV ‘dirt-darted’ into the dirt. The other divers had opened a door on the UTV and found nothing, all the while thinking it was a two-seater. They told me they’d cleared, which means no one was in the vehicle.”
Cormican said he has a real hard time going to sleep at night until he’s recovered any body he’s been called to help recover. As he continued gathering information, he noticed a UTV similar to the one the victim had been riding. It had four doors and a back seat. He also remembered one of the earlier divers saying they’d seen an ice auger in the back seat.
“They had only cleared the front seat,” explained Cormican. “Tuesday night, they went back out there, and we found him in the back seat of his UTV. The water’s force pushed him into the back seat and prevented
him from being able to get out.”
“It was a sad deal,” shared Cormican. “the family had to go through a lot. The divers exhausted themselves and they could have died. A lot was learned, though.”
“If we wouldn’t have gone down there, those other divers would have been packed up and gone home,” Cormican said. “We’re just there to help these dive teams. We’re not there to take anything away from any other divers. You learn over the years. I’ve been there, but you learn.”
Cormincan said the ice thickness of five inches probably wasn’t thick enough to sustain the machines’ weight.
Bruce’s Legacy continues to seek donations to help fund an ROV -remotely operated vehicle.
Utilizing an ROV will allow for the deployment of a machine into the depths instead of a diver. This method is safer and more often less time-consuming. This efficiency is important when trying to cover a body of water. It’s also crucial to know exactly what questionable objects are so divers can be certain what the objects are.