Man tells harrowing story of falling into water while ice fishing

MADISON (WITI) -- A Madison man's story may make you think twice before going out on the ice! He's lucky to be alive to tell it, after falling into Lake Mendota and finding himself in 15 feet of bone-chilling water.

"I thought, when I first went in, no problem, I'll get out," Dan Hovey said.

Hovey will never forget the December day five years ago. A routine ice fishing trip on Lake Mendota that almost took his life.

"With the sun in my eyes, I walked out about 100 yards. I took a left, and as soon as I took a left, maybe 10 steps later, I was in," Hovey said.

Hovey scrambled to get to the surface, and was saved for the moment by a life preserver. He wanted to scream for help but his body was already in shock.

"I think it took awhile for somebody to actually notice I was in," Hovey said.

Hovey spent nearly 25 minutes in the water. He was eventually pulled out with a rope by a fellow fisherman. Unable to stand, talk or even think clearly.

"When I got out of the water and up on shore, I had icicles all over me," Hovey said.

Hovey then changed clothes, and eventually drove home. He says it's a drive he doesn't remember much.

He may have been out of the water, but he was far from out of danger -- still unable to make rational decisions.

Hovey's wife made a decision to take Hovey to the emergency room.

"As soon as she came through the door and saw me, she knew something was wrong," Hovey said.

Hovey was admitted to the hospital with a body temperature of 91 degrees.

Doctors say hypothermia can set in when a body temperature drops below 95 degrees.

Hovey says he know he was lucky that day -- surviving what many may not have.

"I think I got a second chance," Hovey said.

Hovey says that since the incident, he has scaled back his ice fishing. He says he used to go a couple times a week, but now only goes out on the ice maybe two or three times a year -- specifically in areas where he knows the ice is at least five inches thick.