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A cry for help heard: Pair help rescue man who went through lake on snowmobile

Shaun Puppe was riding his snowmobile on Movil Lake when the ice broke and he fell into the freezing water. After making his way out, he was found by two nearby men who helped get him to safety. Submitted photo

BEMIDJI, Minn. — Shaun Puppe nearly died. His limbs wouldn’t move, and his skin was blotchy. Any clothing not already frozen was soaking wet. Nobody answered the door at the home he wandered to. All he could do was yell and then yell some more.

Eventually, someone heard him.

The 37-year-old was riding his snowmobile through the Movil Maze, a series of trails north of Bemidji, on Jan. 22. Afterward, he came up to the shore of Movil Lake. He usually wouldn’t ride on the lake alone at night, but there were fresh tracks, so he figured it would be safe enough.

Mere moments after telling himself he should turn back to shore, the ice broke. Within seconds, he went into the freezing water along with his snowmobile and all the gear he was wearing.

“I can’t describe the feeling of being through the ice and in complete darkness,” he said. “I don’t know how I found the strength.”

He tried standing on the seat of his snowmobile and launching himself onto the nearest sheet of ice, but it, too, broke off once he landed.

At 6-feet-3-inches, the water was up to his neck. Yet, he put his arms on the nearest sheet of ice that was still intact and tried to pull himself out. He was able to get his elbows above the surface. Even as the ice continued to crack and sink, he got his leg over the ice as well.

Once above the ice, he crawled on his stomach until he got to a stronger section of the lake. Although he was out of the water, he began to freeze.

He started trudging to a nearby home. Later on, he’d estimate it was about 100 yards from where he fell through the ice to the home where he was found.

He made it up the stairs from the lake to the deck of the home before resting on the deck’s bench — crying for any help that might be around to hear him.

Searching for the unknown victim

Karl Klammer lost a lot of his hearing in Iraq and couldn’t hear the cries for help. Neither could Connor O’Malley, a friend of Klammer’s who came by the house. But Klammer’s wife could hear someone yelling and pointed Klammer and O’Malley in the right direction.

The two men went searching for the cries they couldn’t hear. O’Malley estimated they went 200 yards before they first heard the sound of someone yelling for help. But even then, they couldn’t tell where it was coming from with the way the lake caused the sounds to echo.

“We thought he was an old guy who had fallen over shoveling snow or something because he sounded really, really desperate,” Klammer said.

O’Malley finally found Puppe curled up on the deck of the lakeside home. His arms were frozen to his chest. O’Malley had to break ice off of Puppe’s zipper before he could even try to take Puppe’s coat off.

“He was just like, ‘I can’t move anything; I can’t feel anything,” O’Malley said.

Klammer reached the deck not long after that. As much as they could, they stripped off Puppe’s frozen gear and started wrapping him with their own coats and gloves before taking him to a neighbor’s house to wait for paramedics.

Though they almost didn’t hear him in the first place, they were likely two of the best people who could have stumbled upon Puppe that night. Klammer is a firefighter who’s on the cold-water rescue team. O’Malley, 25, is an avid outdoorsman.

“These two guys, they knew exactly what to do,” Puppe said. “They saved my life, period.”

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