Dan Denney’s winter experience Through the Ice - A Tale of Survival, published in January 2011, caused quite a stir. By far the most read article in TI Life and rightly so, as Dan’s surviving going under the ice water and climbing out on the ice, was one part, however his ability to maintain his judgment and survive a cold winter’s night and then to walk to shore, made the whole event truly memorable.
Throughout the month we received a number of comments posted on the story page.
Just when I think my fifteen minutes of notoriety is over, along comes another comment. Everyone has been so supportive. It was also nice to learn the identity of the couple affected so directly by my fight for survival: the Bryants, and to hear from the D'Annunzios again. Perhaps we can all meet for a picnic when the weather allows. I even heard from the woman who created the quilt provided for my rescue!
The first was a question written by Liz Huff from Seeley’s Bay, ON, asked the question, “Thanks for this important story. Indeed you showed a remarkable will to live and gave us all important advice. But please tell us what happened with the seasonal cottage owners; were they contacted before they returned to their place or did they return to a surprise? I was able to tell her that the cottage owners were contacted by New York State Police. That's the last I heard.
Then Cheri Bryant quickly sent here message. Yes, Dan! We are so thankful you survived, preventing us from seeing your "frozen corpse" on our porch in March! What a harrowing experience!” I was able to meet this couple and express my appreciation. And there were more.
Comment by: Carole & Vince D'Annunzio ( Malvern, PA )
“Dan - Well, almost a year has gone by since that frigid Sunday morning last Valentine's Day when Vince was peering through the scope out over the frozen St. Lawrence hoping to spot an eagle or two. We were STUNNED (to say the least) to see you navigating your way across the ice!! You were wearing white pants (that you found at the cottage, of course), which actually blended with the terrain - fortunately, the darker jacket helped you be more visible. (Actually, our plans had been to leave Chippewa very early that morning; but the draw of the River is great, and we were delaying our departure . . . remarkable how fate turns its hand!) In any event, we were surprised to see your article here and are happy to know that you recovered so well. Your story will be of great benefit to all who learn of it. Your knowledge and skills sustained you, and (by the grace of God) you gave your loved ones the greatest Valentine's gift of all! Wishing you all the best!
P.S.. Thanks for the quilt return . . . We certainly hope to meet up with you and Connie in the future!”
Comment by: Merrilee Bertram ( Hammond, NY )
“This was followed by Merrilee Bertram ( Hammond, NY ) the next day. “Dan - When I heard the 9-1-1 call come over the Vol Fire Dept. radio and it was from our friend's home (Carole and Vince) saying a man was stranded on the ice, my heart froze. We had had a wonderful weekend with our friends that weekend and had warned them NOT to go out towards the shipping channel due to the ice being very dangerous. They had never seen ice fishing before and were quite interested. Needless to say when I heard the call I thought the worst - made a phone call to them to find out it was another man stranded and Vince had taken off on foot to help out. “ “Our son is a NY State Trooper also but he was not working that day but I do believe you had some of the finest people around helping you that almost tragic day. We have a wonderful volunteer group of people in our fire/ems service in Hammond and also wonderful bunch of state troopers on hand to help. All I can say is thank the dear Lord that Carole and Vince stayed those few more hours looking for eagles - thereby using their scope to look out on the ice and see you in your time of need. If gives me cold chills every time I think of what you went through that day and am very thankful your survived - what a wonderful Valentine Day gift for your family. In ending, I thank you for your enlightening story as now I have a different perspective on what to do if something like that happens. My family has lived near the river our whole lives and I still tell friends and family "The river is a wonderfully beautiful spot to be around but in seconds can be the most dangerous spot also". Thank you again for your article. Funny thing - one of the other comment writers happens to be long time friends from Phelps who are Black Lake people also - was nice to read his comment and coincidentally was on the river that day also. Small world isn't it though.
PS: glad the quilt from Carole and Vince kept you warm - I was the one who made if for them!!! “
There were also several other similar stories.
Comment by: Doug McLellan ( Wood Isle )
Very well written story, I felt every moment. A couple of years ago we took an airboat out to check our place in February. It was bitterly cold and quiet when all of a sudden a sound like thunder. The ice had cracked all around us for hundreds of yards and even though we were safe in the boat, the sudden rush of water made for a heart-thumping moment. Doesn't come close to your experience but a reminder that The River is always ready with a surprise.
Comment by: Allan Horlick ( Saskatoon, Sask. CA )
Thank you Dan for a terrific article. Your courage and will to live were obvious throughout the story. My mother, Ruth Horlick(nee Hood) grew up in Gananoque through the twenties and thirties and always tells the story of Mr. Lachance, a dairy farmer who brought eggs and butter from Howe Island over the ice. Sadly, his car went through the ice and he was never found. The river is a beautiful and dangerous thing.
Comment by: Susan Charbonneau ( Saratoga Springs, NY )
My God. What a harrowing experience! It makes me cold just to think about it. I too love Singer Castle. I was married there (named Jorstadt Castle then) in September 1980 by Dr. Harold Martin. I have such wonderful memories and still love to go visit. But NOT during the winter. We own a cottage on Murray and always have matches and firestarters at the house. I think all cottage owners should keep them on hand. It could've made your survival much easier! Thanks so much for sharing your story.
Comment by: John Cowan ( Kingston, ON )
When I was a boy, in the late 1940's and the 1950's, we lived on the shore of Lake Simcoe, and we were very dependent on ice for refrigeration. Ice cut in the winter on the lake stayed frozen in layers covered with sawdust in our ice-house all summer. Like other folk, we had a truck for going out on the lake to cut ice. These ice trucks looked exactly like any other old pickup truck, except that they had a huge square hole cut in the roof of the cab. The theory was that if the truck seemed to be descending, you might very well want to go straight up, and then step onto the ice before the vehicle sank utterly. It was before the era of seatbelts, so another risk of not being able to exit was averted. I never heard of anyone not being able to exit one of them.
Comment by: Scott Goble ( Phelps, New York )
Thanks Dan for sharing your story. I followed it with interest on that Sunday morning. I drove out onto the ice to fish right past three NYS troopers. They stopped me and told me that they were looking for someone who went missing and wondered if I had seen anything. I wasn't at the derby on Saturday, and therefore had not. I did set up my tip ups and then watched as the air boats went out onto the river, stopped at a spot (presumably where you were) and then returned to the waiting ambulance. Thankful that it all worked out for you. I had wondered how they ultimately got your car out. The pictures are great!!
Comment by: Louise Ford ( Grindstone Island )
About 20 years ago someone from Gan, who I never did meet, broke into my island house and started a fire, burned a candle and drank some booze. They wrote a note thanking me saying they had become stranded by the ice on the north shore of Grindstone. They didn't leave a name I could decipher from their note nor phone number so I never heard what happened to them. I am still not sure how they got in but a door must have been unlocked because nothing was broken ?!?
You made me remember them.
Once in early May in a huge blow around midnight, 2 of us were making our way from Clayton in my 13ft whaler and taking on water. It was just above freezing. We stopped in a boathouse on the north shore of Grindstone having come around the foot. We were wet and freezing and debating breaking into the cottage of friends. But in the end we got back into the little whaler and braved the last of it out to my house where we turned the electric heat up AND started a fire !!
I am just glad it wasn't any worse. Early May and the water temp is DARN cold still !!
Ann Davis ( Berwyn Pa )
I was so taken by your story that it kept me up half the night. I asked myself, would I have the presence of mind to be able to survive getting out of the car and finding refuge? Would I be able to get across the ice on my hands and knees and how heavy and stiff those soaked clothes must have been? I was exhausted reading your story. We have a cottage in TIP and as most cottage owners we turn off our electric so your predicament at the cottage is totally understandable. I just wanted to say "Thank You" so much for writing your story. It was extremely well written and honest and informative. I will always remember the tip about letting your feet float up and rolling on to the ice, though I hope never to have a reason to test it out. I, for one, will never travel on frozen water after your story. I have learned your lesson!
Comment by: Mark Forsyth ( A-Bay )
I too went through the ice last February while fishing near Round Island.Was probably not in the water more than a minute or so but it still creeps me out. I now am very apprehensive as far as ice fishing goes and intend to do so but only when I "know" ice is good and there are other folks around.Thanks for sharing your story and I’m glad you’re O.K.
Ironically, I got a new car and some cash to help replace my drowned photo gear from insurance. My Taylor guitar was resurrected by an excellent luthier, Jeff Brooks, in Cape Vincent who placed a mother-of-pearl polar bear at the guitar's 12th fret.
So while I don't recommend this method of vehicle trade-in, I have much to be thankful for in the wake of the events of February 13-14, 2010, especially to those who came to my rescue.
By Dan Denney
Dan Denney has worn several hats, beginning his media career in radio in Watertown, Gouverneur (NY), and Pulaski (NY). Dan started in the control room at WPBS-TV (then WNPE-TV), a Public Television affiliate. While at WPBS, Dan worked his way into videographer and producer-director positions. He spent five years shooting and editing Rod and Reel Streamside, working with host Don Meissner. He also worked with artist Michael Ringer on The Artist’s World, His interest in Singer Castle also began here while helping produce a travel video on the Thousand Islands for Jefferson County.
When Dan decided he needed a change, he turned his avocation of pre-hospital medicine (EMS) into a vocation working and volunteering for several organizations. In 2004 Dan graduated SUNY Canton’s Nursing program and was licensed as an RN. Dan and his wife live in Waddington, NY. His photographs of the Thousand Islands, the St. Lawrence River, the Adirondacks, Nova Scotia and more can be seen at dandenneyphoto.net.