Nine-month-old Tabitha Rose Markle is in critical condition after her family's vehicle broke through the ice last night on Lake Minnetonka.
First responders rescued the child from about six feet of water after she was submerged for 15-20 minutes, according to Hennepin County Sheriff Rich Stanek. Tabitha was taken by ambulance to Waconia and later transported by helicopter to Children's Hospital.
Sheriff Stanek said during a news conference Saturday morning that a volunteer Mound fireman, who lives on Lake Minnetonka near where the vehicle went through the ice, was the first to reach the scene. Stanek praised the fireman's quick thinking and training, adding he provided crucial assistance and first aid during the critical first few minutes following the accident.
"This firefighter went way above and beyond," Stanek said.
Three additional members of the Markle family, including a two-year-old female, were also pulled from the water. They were treated and released last night.
The accident occurred on Halstead Bay around 5 p.m. Friday night. Sheriff Stanek said alcohol was involved, and a blood alcohol test was administered to 41-year-old Jonathan Markle—Tabitha's father. Results of that test are pending. Jonathan Markle was not arrested, but Sheriff Stanek would not rule out possible criminal charges being filed. Tabitha's mother, Amanda Markle, is employed as a speech clinician by the Richfield School District, according to the district's website.
The area of Halstead Bay where the family's vehicle went into the water—adjacent to County Road 44 in Minnetrista—is notorious for thin ice conditions, and several vehicles have broken through the ice there in recent years.
Friday's accident occurred less than 24 hours after the Hennepin County Sheriff's Office conducted a mock nighttime rescue drill on Lake Minnetonka that simulated a similar scenario.
Multiple agencies responded to last night's accident, including the Mound Fire Department, Hennepin County Sheriff's Water Patrol and several area police departments.
Two additional vehicles also went through the ice on Lake Minnetonka last night, each containing multiple occupants. Those individuals were released from area hospitals last night. Two of the three cars were towed from the water last night. The third remains at the bottom of Lake Minnetonka.
Sheriff Stanek took the unprecedented step of ordering all vehicles off Hennepin County ice last winter and closing all public access points after a rash of accidents blamed on thin ice. Stanek said Saturday that he was not going to take a similar step this season, but he stressed he would take "all necessary steps in order to ensure public safety."
- Infant rescued from submerged car on Lake Minnetonka (KARE)
- Baby in Critical Condition after SUV Falls into Lake Minnetonka (KSTP)
- Authorities: Baby In Critical Condition After SUV Breaks Through Ice (WCCO)
- Car goes through the ice on Lake Minnetonka (KMSP)
- Baby critically hurt after SUV falls into Lake Minnetonka (Star Tribune)
- Lake Minnetonka: Baby 'critical' after SUV breaks through ice (Pioneer Press)