Two men who tried to drive across a frozen bay on Lake Pend Oreille early Saturday drowned when their car plunged through the ice.
Divers pulled the frozen bodies of Marty Kiebert, 40, and Rex “Doobie” Anderson, 40, from the lake about 2 p.m.
Friends and family cried and hugged on the shore 200 yards away, as they watched rescuers through binoculars.
“It’s a bad scene. You could see the tire tracks going out but they didn’t come back,” said Jack Anderson, Rex Anderson’s uncle.
“We were hoping Doobie wasn’t in there, but we looked all over for him in town this morning and couldn’t find him.”
Anderson lived in Clark Fork, Idaho, and Kiebert in Hope, Idaho. Kiebert was the brother of Kermit Kiebert, the former director of the Idaho Department of Transportation.
Authorities said Marty Kiebert was drinking with friends Friday night and decided to drive his Thunderbird across Ellisport Bay.
Kiebert did it once by himself, then came back early in the morning with Anderson. The car was heading north across the bay and was nearly to the other side when it crashed through the ice, sank in about 45 feet of water and landed on its top.
“The passenger door was partially open and it appeared one of the men was trying to make it out,” said Bonner County Undersheriff Nick Krager.
The accident was reported to the sheriff’s department Saturday morning by a lakeshore resident. The man looked out his window, saw tire tracks on the ice and a gaping hole where they ended.
“This was damn stupid. I can’t believe it,” said Jim Howard, one of Kiebert’s close friends. Howard and some of his pals went to look for Kiebert on the lake Saturday morning.
They followed tire tracks down a boat ramp at Kramer’s Marina and onto the ice.
“There is no doubt about what happened. The tracks led to a hole and there was a little oil on top of the water,” Howard said. The hole had already frozen over by the time divers arrived. They had to cut through the ice with a chain saw, as the ice cracked and moaned around them.
“It was only about 3 inches thick,” Krager said. “You could see the stress marks and cracks where the car had driven.”
Don Valliere lives on a boat near the ramp where Kiebert drove onto the frozen lake. Kiebert woke him about midnight and wanted Valliere to drive with him.
“I said no and he said, ‘Well, I’m going to do it.’ I heard the ice cracking as he drove out. By the time I got outside my boat he was already turning around and coming back,” Valliere said.
“He screamed, ‘I did it. You’re my witness.’ I thought that was the end of it but he went to Clark Fork and got another friend. He went out one too many times.”
The bay, 14 miles east of Sandpoint, rarely freezes. The last time residents recall it happening was in 1978, and they say Kiebert drove across it then.
“I guess it was some kind of tradition for him,” Howard said.
“It’s stupid, I’ll tell you that. I lost my brother and a friend in the same day,” said Boyd Anderson, Rex Anderson’s brother.
Boyd Anderson said Kiebert called him at 1:30 a.m. Saturday. “He said he wanted to show me something you don’t see very often. He was talking about the damn ice.”
Boyd Anderson never saw Kiebert after the telephone call and said he must have went to get his brother, Rex, instead.
“I can’t understand why Doobie went,” Valliere added. “He was always scared of the water. You could hardly get him in a boat.”
Kiebert was a heavy equipment operator. Anderson injured his back years ago and was unemployed, collecting Social Security. Neither man was married.
Authorities plan to remove Kiebert’s car from the lake when the ice thaws, using a tugboat and crane. Krager said the accident remains under investigation.
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