“Why would you park on the ice?” No injuries, but lots of questions after 15 vehicles fell through

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LAKE GENEVA -- Fifteen vehicles went through the ice and into the water in Lake Geneva on Saturday, February 6th, during the "Winterfest" weekend featuring the U.S. National Snow Sculpting Competition. The final vehicle was fished out of the water late on Saturday night.

The U.S. National Snow Sculpting Competition is the marquee event during Lake Geneva's annual Winterfest weekend.

However, it wasn't the sculpting that was drawing all the attention on Saturday afternoon.

Creating a work of art from snow and ice takes a lot of talent.

"It`s amazing what they are able to do," Darien Schaefer, CEO and president of Visit Lake Geneva said.

Cracking through thin, melting ice is a matter of physics.

"I don`t know why anybody would park on the ice. I`m sorry. That`s not a nice thing to say," a woman near Lake Geneva on Sunday said.

Lake Geneva

Lake Geneva

Alderwoman Elizabeth Chappell didn't drive. She walked on Saturday afternoon.

"(I was) right here as it was happening," Chappell said.

Instead of the snow sculptures, attention was on the lake, because vehicles were in the water.

"I`ve never seen this massive amount of cars having trouble on the lake," Chappell said.

Lake Geneva police say 15 vehicles went into the water through the ice.

Lake Geneva

Lake Geneva

"I mean, (Saturday) and (Sunday) have been pretty warm temperature-wise," a woman near Lake Geneva on Sunday said.

One might figure if the snow sculptures were melting, the ice was too.

Maybe it was simply the convenience of parking on the ice that was so tempting for those who chose to do so.

Chappell says there was, and is, plenty of good parking on dry land.

"On large event weekends like this, the actual city of Geneva provides a free shuttle," Chappell said.

Chappell notes though, it is legal to park on the lake.

"It`s Wisconsin -- and part of Wisconsin is ice fishing, so we have access to our lakes," Schaefer said.

Winterfest is sponsored by Visit Lake Geneva.

"For Winterfest, we have lots of parking downtown and anybody can take advantage of it. It's free," Schaefer said.

A few of the vehicles that went through the ice simply got wet, while others were completely submerged.

"So thank goodness it wasn`t people it happened to," Chappell said.

There were no injuries -- but a lot of questions following this incident.

"Especially some of those nice, new cars -- why you would want to park it on the ice!?" a woman near Lake Geneva on Sunday said.

While it is legal to park on the ice, event officials say they don't recommend people do so -- especially after what happened on Saturday.

Google Map for coordinates 42.591684 by -88.433430.


  • libertarian

    The owners of those vehicles all need to be held accountable. I would recommend stiff fines along with even some incarceration time in the Geneva prison. The D.N.R needs to also needs to issue fines for water pollution from gas and oil. Federal investigators ought to take a look also to see if federal charges are warranted.

    • Geneva Resident

      First you were calling for jail time for the Lake Geneva city council for “allowing” them to park on the ice, now you’re calling for jail time for the people who parked on the ice. Jesus, you just want to someone, anyone go to jail over this don’t you? If being stupid were a crime, we’d need a hell of a lot more prisons. And the fact that you said the “Geneva Prison” shows me you’ve never once probably come to this town, let’s keep it that way. You may want to put the jaywalkers away next, chain gangs for littering, public floggings for traffic violations…

  • ChristianW

    I agree with the other poster about fines. Also I hope their insurance companies do NOT cover this. It’s nothing more then an act of stupidity, and they should bear the responsibility!

  • simmerdown

    okay…okay…simmer down everyone. If it would not have been so warm, ice fisherman park on the ice all the time. There can be many times up to 19 inches of ice. It just so happen in this case there wasn’t enough ice. So calling people stupid for parking on the ice is uncalled for because most of the winter ice fisherman do it all the time and they also drive 4 wheelers. I live on a lake and my husband is an ice fisherman. Sheesh, everyone is always ready to string others up.

    • Fisherman

      Driving on the ice is fine. I doubt however…do you ever see people ice fishing parking ten cars deep, as if they were parking at Walmart. Common sense.

  • Josh

    How thick was the ice before it cracked? The DNR usually issues fines for cars that break thru due too water pollution

  • Common Sense

    First of all, Look at the License Plates. Second of all yes the DNR has stiff fines. Insurance does not cover damage & the recovery fees are very high.

  • morrissurfer

    so did all the cars go through at once if not why was not some kind of warning issued when it first started happening?

  • Charley Nelson

    I realize I am vey late to the party, however I wanted to comment without being snarky and calling people dumb and such. Just an honest comment about why this happens. People will park on the ice because usually at this time of the year it is safe to do so. But while we have had some pretty cold weather in the last few weeks, overall this has been a warmer than average winter. People weren’t taking into account the overall picture, they were simply thinking “It’s been pretty cold recently” and “You can almost always park here this time of year.” This proves why one should heed current warnings and not rely on the “usually it’s safe” line of thinking.

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