MCGRATH, Minn. (FOX 9) - This week, a family in greater Minnesota is grieving the loss of their centerpiece: Owen Thomas Benjamin, after the 6-year-old fell through the ice on a small lake and drown on Sunday afternoon in Aitkin County.
Owen’s mother says he’d gotten all dressed up to go play in the snow, and was super excited after watching what authorities say was 14 inches of fresh snow fall. But the heavy snow - mixed with at times warmer weather this winter - proved a recipe for disaster.
That’s because DNR Ice Safety Expert Nicole Biagi says snow on ice adds weight and insulation to the surface of frozen lakes; and it can cause conditions to deteriorate in an instant.
"This is the second reported fatality that we’ve heard of this year," DNR Ice Safety Expert Nicole Biagi told FOX 9 on Tuesday. "Something can go wrong at any moment, ice can vary on a small body of water, from one area, a few feet away it can be thinner."
Owen’s family describes the 6-year-old as a smart, loving and adventurous boy. His mother shared this message with FOX 9 on Tuesday:
"He got all dressed up to go play in the snow Sunday, super excited, as he had been waiting and watching the snow accumulate throughout the snowstorm. He went out to go build a snow fort with the snow on the picnic table right by the house. He is a very smart boy. He was also very adventurous. We, as a very active family, were always doing things outdoors. Owen's been on the ice to skate, go 4 wheeling, ice fish we did these things many times. It's important to teach your children how dangerous, even fun things can be. My sweet boy, he was so loving and deeply caring, he was such a goofy little dude. He could put a smile on anyone's face. He gave the best hugs. A nice tight long squeeze. I am never going to get a hug from him again. My baby my sweet boy. I love him more than anyone could imagine and he is so deeply loved and missed by everyone. He touched so many lives while he was here with us. He is so special."
The Aitkin County Sheriff’s Office says the victim fell through ice in an area typically used as a skating rink, next to a dock that at the time was covered with snow.
"Along docks, and other heat absorbing structures, like rocks and logs in the water, the ice [can] melt sooner, so be aware around those areas," Biagi finished.