Photos: How a pro pulls a pickup out of a lake

That video I posted the other day showing how a tow truck was able to pull an SUV out of Lake Minnetonka after it fell through thin ice looked too easy. It was in fairly shallow water and from all appearances, it didn’t take that much for Lake Minnetonka to give up her ill-gotten gain.

But Lake Onalaska — the part of the Mississippi River separating La Crosse, Wis., from Dresbach, Minn. — is a lake that makes you work for it.

A Ford F-150 went through the ice on Tuesday, the La Crosse Tribune reports.

Normally, Don Stoeckly at Don’s Towing would take a tow truck and just pull it out. But the truck was a mile from shore, the newspaper says.

Stoeckly took a rusted-out Jeep Cherokee sitting in his lot and went to work with a torch. He cut off the doors, the roof, the tailgate, the hood; he ripped out everything but the engine and the driver’s seat, “anything we could get off that would lighten the vehicle.”

He figures he got the Jeep down to about 1,500 pounds.

He then welded a boom on the back and hooked up a 10,000-pound electric winch — the smallest he thought he could get away with — and drove the Mad Max-style tow as far out as he dared, about 400 feet from the sunken truck.

His contraption looked like this. Ain’t she a beauty?

“Four companies turned this job down,” his daughter said. And with good reason. “He had it in his head — I’m doing this job.”

Then Don put on a life preserver and the La Crosse Dive Team assisted in getting people to the truck…

… while he loaded timber on a golf cart and headed for the sunken treasure, with a wave “goodbye.” Because you never know.

The dive team attached a cable and the Mad Max…umm… thing pulled the truck along the lake bottom.

It took a couple of days but on Thursday, the truck was in shallow enough water that timber could be used as a ramp to get it topside.

Eventually, it came to shore freshly washed and completely worthless.

Stoeckly has been doing this sort of thing for 37 years, the Tribune says.

There’s good money to be made off the bad decisions of others.

The moral of the story? Don’t drive on thin ice, learn the art of welding, and call Don Stoeckly when you’re fresh out of good ideas.

  • MrE85
  • joetron2030

    That’s awesome.

  • ChrisF

    What’s somebody looking at, cost-wise, when this happens to their vehicle? Assuming coverage for the vehicle damage but are there charges outside of that. I heard once there is a fine applied each day the car is in the water for enviromental damage. Is that true?

    • Brian Simon

      I’ve heard of the fine too, but wonder if all bodies of water are treated equally.

  • Fred, Just Fred

    That is one clean truck.

  • Kaaawa44

    That’ll get a “Krylon-rebuild” ( spray paint anything rusty) and be on a used car lot by the weekend. “Wet seats ? – our Lot-boy must have left the window open…”

  • tboom

    >> Stoeckly has been doing this sort of thing for 37 years, the Tribune says.
    There’s good money to be made off the bad decisions of others. <<

    If I ever start a business capitalizing on the “bad decisions of others”, I’m going to specialize on bad decisions made in the summer.

  • raymarshall

    If I was stupid enough to go driving on thin ice, would it help to turn the engine off before the engine sunk?