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Four presumed dead after van plunges into Minnesota lake

December 31, 1996

BAUDETTE, Minn. (AP) _ A van holding a group of friends heading out for a day of ice fishing broke through a frozen lake, leaving four people missing today and presumed drowned. Divers resumed searching for bodies today.

The three survivors said the van went through the ice about a mile off shore in a resort area on Lake of the Woods, which straddles the U.S.-Canadian border. The group was following a trail on the ice that had been used by other vehicles.

The driver, Jim Rollie, 39, and his wife, Wendy, 35, of Pine Island, jumped onto the ice before the van sank.

A passenger, Don Dose, 47, of Elgin, plunged into the water.

``He said he was flapping his arms and praying with all his might that he would be able to hit the water, not the ice area. ... He felt the air hit his face so he knew he would be all right,″ said Sister Regina Haag, a worker at the hospital where the survivors were treated.

All three were released Monday.

Divers returned to the water today looking for the other members of the group. The two couples from Beaver Dam, Wis., were presumed drowned. They were identified as Donald and LaVerne Kutcher and Henry and Ellajean Gahlman. Authorities did not have precise ages for all four but said they were in their 60s and 70s.

Ice on frozen lakes is never safe for driving, said Kim Elverum of the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.

``Ice can vary so much, even on a lake like Lake of the Woods, and there can be weak spots,″ Elverum said.

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