Matthew McCabe, 43, of Fremont, was pronounced dead after attempts to resuscitate him failed. Just before 8 p.m., the Ballville Township volunteer fire responded to a pond near the 1500 block of Finefrock Road for a call about a utility vehicle that crashed through the ice.
“They were going to a buddy’s house and were cutting through fields in some unfamiliar territory,” Ballville fire Chief Doug Crowell said. “They went up an embankment on to a pond, which only had two and half inches of ice on top it.”
The vehicle crashed through the thin layer of ice. The 37-year-old driver was able to get out. He was treated for cold exposure and hypothermia.
But the passenger was still strapped into the vehicle and submerged in the icy water. Ballville fire sent divers down to free McCabe, but rescue attempts were complicated by the extreme cold, which was well below zero degrees.
“We were in a bad logistical spot and were having issues with equipment freezing,” Crowell said. “The cold was just horrible. It was negative 10 degrees with the windchill and the water would just freeze instantly around everything.”
The harsh weather led Ballville to call for support from the Sandusky County Sheriff’s Office, Sandusky Township fire, Green Springs fire, Sandusky County EMS, and the dive teams from Ottawa County and Jerusalem Township.
There were also problems with people stopping to observe the rescue attempts, causing congestion on the country road and increasing the likelihood of another crash, so the road was shut down to keep people away.
After divers discovered McCabe was secured in the vehicle with a four-point harness and not a traditional seat belt, they decided to try to pull the vehicle out of the water using a winch.
“Normally, we would remove the person from the vehicle, but because of the issues we were having with the four-point harness, we opted to send a diver down, hook a cable onto the (vehicle) and winch the whole thing up,” Crowell said.
Crowell said they tried to resuscitate McCabe because there have been cases of people being saved hours after being submerged in cold water. After there attempts to revive McCabe failed, he was pronounced dead and the Sandusky County coroner was called.
“We did everything we could to try to get him out as soon as possible and save him,” Crowell said. “Sadly, it didn’t work this time.”
Sandusky County Sheriff Chris Hilton said there’s a pending investigation into the crash.
“There were indications that alcohol may have been involved in the crash,” Hilton told the Sandusky Register.
A field sobriety test reportedly was performed on the driver, and a urine sample was collected.
The results will be sent to prosectors for consideration of charges.