Illinois snowmobiler dies after falling through ice on Geneva Lake

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Andrea Anderson
Monday, February 15, 2016

TOWN OF LINN—An Illinois man is dead after falling through the ice on Geneva Lake on Sunday night.

Mark G. Reninger, 53, Wheeling, Illinois, was snowmobiling on the lake with another man when the two hit open water in the middle of the lake at about 9 p.m., said Juan Gomez, Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources conservation warden based in Elkhorn.

The identity of the other man has not been released, but Gomez said the other snowmobiler also is from Illinois and in his early 50s. He leaped from his snowmobile onto an ice shelf.

The Walworth County medical examiner pronounced Reninger dead at a Mercy Walworth Hospital and Medical Center. The man who jumped onto the ice was treated and released for hypothermia at the same hospital.

The two men had been traveling across the ice from Lake Geneva to Fontana. They had made the trip in the opposite direction earlier in the day.

The two thought they were on the same path back to Fontana when in reality they were “several hundred yards” from the original route, Gomez said.

Alcohol is not considered a factor, he said.

The two men have ties to the community, Gomez said.

Local agencies used a hovercraft, airboat and winter survival suits for those who went out on the ice.

All crews were off the ice by 12:30 a.m. Monday, Gomez said.

The event comes about a week after 15 cars parked on the ice near shore went through the ice during Winterfest and the U.S. National Snow Sculpting Competition in Lake Geneva.

Portions of Geneva Lake have 10 to 12 inches of ice, but other segments are open water.

"Once the lake is locked up and has no free flowing water, it makes ice really quickly. It just hasn't been the year for that," Gomez said.

Gomez recommends people venturing onto the ice check with locals or ice fishers about ice conditions.

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