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“Unbelievable:” 15 vehicles fall through ice at Lake Geneva’s Winterfest

LAKE GENEVA -- More than a dozen cars fell through the ice at Lake Geneva's Winterfest Saturday afternoon, February 6th.

According to the Lake Geneva Police Department, fifteen vehicles in total had broken through the ice and were partially submerged in the water.

Of the 15 vehicles that broke through the ice, five were able to be driven from the scene. The remaining ten vehicles sustained severe water damage and are believed to be a total loss.

The scene was a mess. Crews worked for hours trying to get the cars out.

"It's unbelievable," said Jody Fuller, Lake Geneva.

In Lake Geneva, a weekend of fun took a wrong turn.

"Kind of mind-blowing," said Thomas Marver-Benz.

As people packed Winterfest, all attention turned from the snow sculptures to the lake.


"The cars were parked, there were like three or four rows and it was puddles," said Fuller.

Fuller and her family saw the writing on the wall as melting ice started surrounding rows of parked.

"We drove by and thought in about three hours, those cars are going to be underwater," said Fuller.

Around 2:00 p.m., it happened -- fifteen vehicles started sinking into the lake.

"I think the weight of those vehicles and the sun beating down on them loosened the ice up underneath them and caused them to break apart," said Lieutenant Ed Gritzner, Lake Geneva Police Department.

Day turned into night and for hours, crews worked to save the cars. The deepest water reaching 15 feet.

"Heed the warning, you travel at your own risk, but we don't recommend anybody go on the ice because of this type of situation," said Gritzner.

A lesson for everyone from a situation no one will soon forget.

Luckily, no one was hurt in all of this.

The City of Lake Geneva Police Department was assisted by the City of Lake Geneva Fire/EMS Department, Town of Linn Fire Department, and Town of Delavan Fire Department, Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, Walworth County Sheriff's Office and the Racine Fire Bells.

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  • Brent Wambold

    It comes down to being able to read the ice. The ones still driving around out there can read where it is strong enough to support them. Obviously, those who went through that close to the shore didn’t realize when it is dry and warm, you don’t park close to shore in large groups. It all comes down to experience…Like back in the 60’s when ABC Wide World of Sports came to film the International Ice Boat Regatta Championship…and one of the film truck drivers didn’t read the ice… they lost it below the surface for a several hours…all of that equipment.

  • Ice monster

    Read the ice? Hmm I wonder about how well that works? I can tell you right now that driving on any lake is a big risk right now with a car or truck. Iam sure we will see many more of these stories in the coming days.

  • Ryan Berka

    Actually it does cover stupidity. Almost every accident can be at least partially attributed to user error. Texting and driving, get into an accident and your insurance will cover it. They may drop you right after but they will cover it. Accidentally leave your parking brake off in SF and send the car crashing down a gigantic hill, yep covered. Most insurance claims are for “stupidity” not the out of your hands act of nature type things.

  • Geneva Resident

    People have parked on the ice for this event for years. If you’ve never been to this town during Winterfest, try and get a parking spot. Yesterday was not the day to do it. It was their choice to park there, there’s signs everywhere that say you park at your own risk, if they’re too stupid to heed warnings, and to realize you don’t park 30 vehicles on a shoreline and expect the ice to hold, well, why should there be criminal charges for their stupidity? Are you going to tell me any time a vehicle goes through the ice in Wisconsin the local municipality is criminally liable? Give me a break.

  • Michael Neals

    Remember Fishy fishy in the brook? Do you think fish say Fisherman fisherman parked on the lake, you have made a big mistake. You wore your mittens, hats and boots but you should have worn a scuba suit.

  • liberal

    These people and their earth destroying ways of living need to be held accountable for this disaster they caused on the lake. The federal government and D.N.R need to hand down stiff fines and punishments to these people. The lake will never be the same after contamination caused by these metal hunts of junk.

    • Fred

      Libertard: What contamination? Unless a gas tank or oil pan ruptured there shouldn’t be any fluids leaking into the lake. These vehicles were not fully submerged. Have you ever been out on a lake by a boat launch??? There’s always the rainbow film on top of the water from the boat motors….BTW, at boat launches, many times you need to back your truck into the water so the rear differential is submerged to get the boat on and off the trailer………

  • John

    The cars were probably driven several minutes. The engine heats u to 200 degrees a swell as th exhaust system. The heat from these areas melted melted ice Notice the front of all the cars are through the ice. Simple science. Hot metal melts ice.

  • Fred

    I’ve been ice fishing for 35 years and driving on the ice to do it. This past weekend I was on two different lakes with my F250….didn’t go thru. The ice was 14″ to 16″ thick at the lakes I was on. You should only go out on the ice if you understand rule No.1, which is: the ice is never safe.
    The problem was all those vehicles parked together in that area on geneva… shouldn’t do that on any lake. Stupid move by people who probably never go on the ice to skate much less drive.

  • Itsme

    Unbelievable? Ummm…..I don’t think so. Park on a lake, especially with the weather we’ve had and you’re just asking to go through!!! I cant muster sympathy for any of these people……. I’m kind of happy that someone who looks a a frozen lake with the mild weather we’ve had thinks :gee, lets park our hot car on the sketchy ice” is off the road for a bit!


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