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22-year-old Indianapolis man presumed dead after falling through ice on Lake Michigan

A group was walking on shelf ice when it cracked and one person fell through. They tried to save their friend, but couldn't due to large waves and unstable ice.

PORTAGE, Ind. — Authorities say an Indianapolis man is missing and presumed dead after he fell into Lake Michigan when he and a group of friends ventured onto an ice shelf at Indiana Dunes National Park. 

Just one day prior, Indiana DNR had posted photos of the ice shelf calling it an "awesome site" but one that should be looked at with your eyes and not your feet. Shelf ice is extremely dangerous in that it is full of air pockets and weak spots. If you step in the wrong spot, you're at risk of falling in. 

That's just what happened at the West Beach at Indiana Dunes National Park.

The DNR said five people, including 22-year-old Bryce Dunfee were walking on shelf ice along the shoreline when it began to crack. The group retreated to the shore and Dunfee fell into the water. The group tried, but couldn't reach him because of the large waves and unstable ice.  

Do not risk your life! Stay on the beach and please keep off the shelf ice. As winter temperatures continually drop,...

Posted by Indiana Dunes National Park on Monday, January 24, 2022

First responders were called to the area at around 6:30 p.m. 

The U.S. Coast Guard, dive teams, conservation officers, park rangers, firefighters and other rescuers tried to search Dunfee until conditions became too treacherous in the near-freezing lake on northwest Indiana's shoreline. 

Indiana DNR said conservation officers were searching on foot and by boat as long as conditions would allow. Dunfee was last seen wearing a gray shirt with black sleeves, khaki pants, and black shoes.

Credit: Indiana DNR Law Enforcement
Indiana conservation officers patrol along Lake Michigan's shoreline where multiple people were caught walking on the shelf ice along the shore on Sunday, Feb. 20, 2022.

Indiana Department of Natural Resources spokeswoman Nicole Baumann says it's unlikely Dunfee could have survived in the near-freezing water.

Indiana conservation officers are urging the public to stay off of shelf ice along Lake Michigan warning that "it can be unpredictable and extremely dangerous." 

In their post Sunday, Indiana DNR said that as temperatures rise, the shelf ice only gets more perilous and that "a rescue would be extremely difficult." For these reasons, people are prohibited from walking on the shelf ice. 

Credit: Indiana DNR Law Enforcement
Indiana conservation officers patrol along Lake Michigan's shoreline where multiple people were caught walking on the shelf ice along the shore on Feb. 20, 2022.

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