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Patrol: Semi Goes Off Road, Breaks Through Ice

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – A semi went off road on Interstate 94 East near Monticello Friday morning and broke through the ice of a nearby pond, sinking up to its windshield, authorities said.

According to the State Patrol, a semi carrying 20,000 pounds of freight went off Interstate 94 at 6:13 a.m. near mile post 169. The semi was driving east before it crossed oncoming traffic and skidded more than 100 yards onto an ice-covered pond.

"Once he realized he was in the water, it was dark obviously at that time of day, and he got out of the vehicle and swam to shore," said Lt. Paul VanVoorhis, who says witnesses on shore called for help. "The driver stated that he is not sure what happened."

The semi's driver, 34-year-old John Nettifee, of Anoka, suffered minor injuries, and was treated and released at Monticello Hospital, the patrol said.

Traffic backed up for miles while crews turned their attention to the Target trailer lodged in the ice. They called in experts to help tow it out.

"They called me this morning, and said they got a semi in the water. I go: 'What?! A semi? No way,'" said Phil Kerber, a scuba diver from Medina, who usually searches shipwrecks.

Kerber says when it comes to vehicle recovery, this is also a rare find.

"It's kind of dangerous in some sort of way," Kerber said. "But I'm familiar with it because of my shipwreck experience."

He dove under a foot of ice to secure cables for tow trucks.

"It's in muck about three feet deep, so it's going to be a heck of a time pulling it out," he said.

Phil Collins with Collins Brothers Towing in Elk River brought in three large tow trucks in a coordinated effort to tug the truck to shore.

"This is a tow truck guy's dream," Collins said, vowing his crews wouldn't go home until the truck was out. "Anything you buy at Target is probably in the truck, 20 thousand pounds, plus the truck and trailer, probably about 40 thousand pounds [total]."

Crews used chainsaws to cut a path through the ice to the pond's shore. It took nearly eight hours to break the truck loose, and then a clean-up team came in to address spilled diesel and leaking oil.

A Target spokesperson said the freight was headed from Willmar to their Fridley distribution center, and that Nettifee wasn't directly employed by Target. His truck lists his own operation, Nettifee Enterprises.

WCCO could not reach Nettifee for comment.

Nettifee's driving record shows he was convicted of driving an unregistered vehicle in Anoka County in 2009, driving while his license was suspended in Nicollet County in 2009, and driving over the legal tandem axle weight in St. Louis County in 2011.

Video From The Semi Rescue

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