Dive rescue team member saves children who fell through ice

By: Sarah Wojcik | Shelby - Utica News | Published February 14, 2017 | Updated February 15, 2017 11:14am

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At approximately 6:35 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 14, the Shelby Township Police and Fire departments responded to a report of a boy who had fallen through the ice on a lake at the Crystal Lake Apartments, located near 23 Mile and Dequindre roads.

Upon arrival, a firefighter dressed in a cold water exposure suit swam out and located the boy holding his younger sister in the water, and the firefighter brought both children safely to shore, according to a Fire Department press release.

Fire Department paramedics treated both children at the scene and transported them via ambulance to William Beaumont Hospital in Troy, according to the release.

Before the member of the Fire Department arrived in the cold water exposure suit, a Shelby Township police officer and a bystander attempted to swim out and rescue the children, but the officer and bystander both returned to shore, according to the release.

“Shelby Township’s dive rescue team and swift water rescue team train year-round for water-related emergencies for surface and sub-surface rescue, including ice conditions,” Fire Chief Jim Swinkowski said in a statement. “All of our stations are equipped with cold water exposure suits, and several members of our dive team have additional training for ice diving.”

Swinkowski said the Fire Department carries a cold water exposure suit on each of its fire engines, so the firefighter was changing while the crew responded to the lake and was ready to go when they parked. Swinkowski explained that the cold water exposure suits are thick and buoyant, so the person zipped inside will not go under the surface, even if they jump into the water.

“It was really quick. It was like a 2-minute (rescue),” he said in an interview Feb. 15. “We only had reports of the one person, and then our rescuer — one of our cold water guys — saw all of a sudden that it was two people.”

He said the firefighter brought both children safely to harder ice and then to shore.

“(The children) were very, very cold,” Swinkowski said. “We took them to the hospital so they could check them and make sure they were not hypothermic, but it sounded like they were both alert and talking. They weren’t passing out or anything like that.”

Because Shelby Township has so many lakes, Swinkowski said, the Fire Department trains all of its members in water rescues — not just its specialty rescue teams.

The Fire Department strongly urged everyone to stay off the ice due to the mild winter and urged parents to talk to their children about the dangers of being on the ice.

The incident at the Crystal Lake Apartments was the second incident in which children fell through ice Feb. 14.

At approximately 3:15 p.m., two 15-year-old boys fell through the ice on a retention pond at the West Arrowhead Lake subdivision, located near 25 Mile and Jewell roads. In that instance, two police officers worked together to retrieve one teen from the water. The other teen made it to shore on his own. The Fire Department transported both boys to Henry Ford Macomb Hospital.