Snowmobiler lives after near death experience
41-year-old Michigan State Police Trooper, Michael Mihalic was riding his snowmobile on Lake Leelanau at approximately 9:45 p.m. on Tuesday when in a matter of seconds, things went terribly wrong.
"I could feel the snowmobile losing traction and just starting to sink and then with in a second just, it was over," recalls Mihalic. "It happened fast. It seemed like slow motion. But I mean I can still picture it."
Mihalic was riding with his close friend, 55-year-old Bruce Mercer of Traverse City. Mercer was behind Mihalic, and saw him fall through the thin ice. Instinctively, Mercer powered through the nearly 50-yards of progressively thinning ice up to shore. He ran to the side door of a house off of S. Lake Shore Drive for help.
17-year-old Kevin Fehrenbach was sitting in his living room watching television.
"All of a sudden, he heard a banging and he saw this strange man in a panic and he said, "I'm on with 9-1-1. Give the address! Man in the lake!"" said Kevin's mother, Susan Fehrenbach.
Mihalic kept calm. Something he says he was trained to do, and that it is more than likely what kept him alive. Nearly 30-minutes later past before help arrived and crews flooded into Susan's backyard. Mike says he's not sure he could have survived any longer.
"Once I came to the realization that I wasn't going to be able to get up on the ice and that I needed to conserve my energy," said Mihalic. "It wasn't so much minutes as it was breaths."
These days, Mike is thankful. Thankful that he is still around to be with his family and has the ability to keep living.
"I'm not going to take risks like I did. I'm not going to say it's not safe to do because I thought it was safe. I'm just so thankful that it turned out the way that it did."
Mihalic credits his survival to his riding partner Bruce Mercer, Susan and her son Kevin, the Leland and Suttons Bay Fire and Rescue crews, the Leelanau County Sheriff's Department, and the Leelanau County Dispatchers.
For the complete video from Michael Mihalic's interview, click here.
For tips on how to stay safe while out on the ice, click here.