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The sunken truck sits on firmer ice next to the custom tow truck built by Don’s Towing and Repair. It took two days to recover the truck after it went through the ice on Lake Onalaska Tuesday.

Don Stoeckly has pulled plenty of vehicles out of icy waters in his 37 years in the towing business, but never one quite as hard as the Ford pickup that went through the ice Tuesday on Lake Onalaska.

Normally, Stoeckly said, he would use one of his tow trucks, but the F150 was about a mile from shore in six to eight feet of water under ice that was only about two inches thick.

The 67-year-old president of Don’s Towing and Repair decided he would need a custom tool.

Stoeckly took a rusted-out Jeep Cherokee sitting in his lot and went to work with a torch. He cut off the doors, the roof, the tailgate, the hood; he ripped out everything but the engine and the driver’s seat, “anything we could get off that would lighten the vehicle.”

He figures he got the Jeep down to about 1,500 pounds.

He then welded a boom on the back and hooked up a 10,000-pound electric winch — the smallest he thought he could get away with — and drove the Mad Max-style tow as far out as he dared, about 400 feet from the sunken truck.

Amanda Manock, who co-owns the family business with her husband, said the team was against it, but there was no talking her father out of it.

“Four companies turned this job down,” she said. “He had it in his head — I’m doing this job.”

Stoeckly and his crew — a dozen people helped on the job, including divers from the La Crosse Dive Unit — spend most of Wednesday trying to pull the truck in.

“We had to regroup our thoughts and get some more timber,” he said.

They returned on Thursday and cut a runway in the ice so they could drag the truck across the bottom to thicker ice, where they could get it onto wood skids. The truck came out about 4:30 p.m.

Stoeckly said he hasn’t tallied the bill, but conceded, “it would be more than a $66.09 tow.”

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Rhymes with Lubbock. La Crosse Tribune reporter and data geek. Covers energy, transportation and the environment, among other things.

(15) comments

Al Webb

Greetings; Was the owner intoxicated? Does he have sufficient monies to pay for this extensive towing? Insurance will not pay for this; maybe the owner was in arrears on his payments? Makes no sense.


Impressive recovery. Nice work Don. Calculate this bill and then add a stupidity tax.


The truck will soon be found on a lot right across the river on Minnesota soil with "low mileage!' on the window!


He could just bought some fish from that illegal crook fisherman, that had 2500 bluegills in in freezer a lot cheaper at $5 bucks a bag !! and funny thing is the dummies are still driving out on the ice yet today !!! Splash Splash take that ford for a bath !!! and wife is calling a good divorce lawyer too !!

Al Webb

Good money; thanks.


I hope the owner thinks before taking another vehicle out on a frozen lake after there has been some warm days. Those trucks aren't light ya know. I can just about imagine what their insurance rep is going to say. TFB buddy!

Mo' Money Scott Walker

You see folks, that right there is why the state needs more welders! Good Job Donnie!

Al Webb

Well said; thanks.


Morons driving on the ice in an unknowing attempt to remove themselves from the gene pool.


That tow bill will be about $ 5000.00 dollars. The truck was probably worth about 40 thousand dollars. The truck is destroyed. That's an expensive fishing trip.


Bet more than that plus the fine for the pollution of the lake. And I doubt the ins company is going to buy the "he took a wrong turn" excuse. Hope this moron like paying off a truck he doesn't have.


Yeah, try explaining that to your insurance company.


You wanna bet it's more than that? A lot more than that?

Al Webb

Must have been in arrears on his payments; doubt that his insurance will pay. Who knows?


Re: "...but the F150 was about a mile from shore in six to eight feet of water under ice that was only about two inches thick..."

That ought to hold it. That and some crazy glue.

" friend, he can make a glue..."

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