The Herald, Sharon, Pa.

March 11, 2013

On thin ice

Rescuers save 3; fisherman dies

By Tom Davidson
Herald Staff Writer and The Associated Press

MERCER COUNTY AREA — This isn’t the time of year to walk on ice, no matter how thick it appears, a Mercer County fire chief reiterated Sunday, after he spent the morning helping to rescue a man from a frigid farm pond in Pine Township.

“It was a huge eye-opener,” Pine Township Fire Chief Christopher Holmes said.

Holmes and his volunteers spent Sunday morning pulling a man from a large pond at 395 Daugherty Road.

Holmes didn’t get the man’s full name, but said he was taken to Grove City Medical Center, Pine Township, where he should recover from hypothermia.

He said the man was lucky to be alive.

The man went out on the ice in a kayak “to fetch a dog” he saw on the ice. The dog didn’t survive, Holmes said.

“It was somebody’s dog, it wasn’t his,” Holmes said. “The dog was around 200 yards away (from where the man went under).”

The kayak went through the ice and filled with freezing water and the man spent several minutes “hanging on for dear life,” Holmes said.

“It was really stressful there at the beginning,” he said.

Firefighters from Grove City and the Unionville, Butler County, cold water rescue team were assisted by Superior Ambulance at the scene.

Eventually a boat was put into the pond and the man was pulled to safety.

“We were trying to do our best,” Holmes said. “The gentleman couldn’t even make a grip with his hand; he was just numb.”

The incident, along with others that happened this weekend and Thursday’s drowning death of Jean Black, 56, of Hubbard, and two of her dogs through the ice of Shenango River Lake in Pymatuning Township should make evident the dangers of venturing onto ice -- especially during the recent "heat wave," Holmes said.

“You see ice today, it might look thick, but it’s not,” he said.

If pets become trapped on ice, “you need to make a conscious decision of what you are going to do,” Holmes said.

“Once you’ve been in the water for 20 minutes, you’re done,” he said, meaning that’s how long it takes for fatal hypothermia to set in.

“You’re in 30-degree water, it’s not going to take long – you’re muscles and organs start shutting down,” Holmes said. “It sure was a huge eye-opener. This is the most dangerous time to go out on the ice.”

“Do not go out on the ice!” Holmes declared.

A couple other incidents at lakes in the region should hammer home the point.

Officials in Butler County said an elderly ice fisherman fell into Lake Arthur’s Big Run Bay in Moraine State Park on Saturday afternoon.

A passer-by on Route 422 spotted something orange in the water and called emergency responders at about 5 p.m. Saturday.

A park ranger pulled the man to shore on a pontoon-type sled, and he was taken to Butler Memorial Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

Park operations manager Dan Bickel said the victim was 73-year-old Kenneth Andres. Bickel said officials don’t know how long he was in the water. He said the victim was fishing alone “which is never recommended.”

Also on Saturday, emergency responders rescued two people who fell through ice on Pymatuning Lake.

Linesville Volunteer Fire Department arrived on scene as a third individual reportedly attempted to help the other two, according to Fire Chief William Mickle, who reported both individuals were safely pulled out by 5:50 p.m.

One person was sent to UPMC Horizon, Greenville, for treatment, Mickle said.

Jamestown Volunteer Fire Department, Conneaut Lake Ambulance and the state park ranger assisted on scene.

Authorities did not identify those involved. No further details were released.