Deputies: Man likely died of exposure after truck went through ice

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SHELL LAKE, Wis. (WASHBURN COUNTY SHERIFF'S OFFICE NEWS RELEASE) -- During the afternoon hours of Thursday December 26th, The Washburn County Sheriff’s Office received a call from a business owner in St. Louis Missouri indicating that an employee driving a company truck had been missing since December 23rd. The business owner indicated that the truck was equipped with a GPS system, and the last known location of the truck, was in the Trego area in Washburn County. Sheriff’s Deputies patrolled the area, but did not locate the vehicle.

On 12/27/2013, more detailed GPS information was analyzed and a more specific search area was identified. Washburn County Deputies, Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources Wardens, along with personnel and equipment from Washburn County Forestry and DNR Forestry began a search in the area of Dilly Lake in the Township of Crystal. The missing company truck was located at the south end of Dilly Lake, in Potato Creek, where it had broken through the ice. The truck had frozen water up to seat level inside the truck, but the driver was not in the vehicle.

As the search for the driver continued, the body of Edward Steinhardt age 30 of Naperville IL was recovered approximately ½ mile South of the truck location, in the brushy bottomland along Potato Creek. The body was removed from this remote location and an autopsy has been ordered by the Washburn County Deputy Coroner.
From the preliminary indications at the scene, it appears that Mr. Steinhardt drove across the ice on Dilly Lake and proceeded South on Potato Creek, before breaking through the ice. After getting wet, Mr. Steinhardt walked along the creek in harsh winter weather conditions, most likely succumbing to exposure to the elements.

In light of this tragedy, Sheriff Dryden would like to issue a warning regarding vehicular traffic on area lakes this year. Heavy snowfall has created unsafe ice conditions on many of the area lakes, and often good ice conditions can change to dangerous on the same body of water. The Sheriff’s Office has already responded to numerous vehicles that have broken through the ice, and the current conditions indicate that these calls will most likely continue.