Firefighters rescue teen boys who fell through ice

By Nicholas Johnson | Jan 11, 2017
Courtesy of: Snohomish County Fire District 1 Firefighter and paramedic Dave Erickson of Snohomish County Fire District 1 collects his gear after crawling onto an ice-covered Lake Serene to rescue a boy who fell in Jan. 4.

A 15-year-old boy who spent more than 20 minutes in an ice-covered Lake Serene Jan. 4 survived thanks to a quick response by Snohomish County Fire District 1 crews.

“Our response time was just a few minutes,” said firefighter and paramedic Dave Erickson, who crawled onto the ice to reach the boy and return him to shore after responding from Fire Station 23, located across a street from the lake. “The minutes we saved due to our proximity definitely made it possible to save the victim’s life. Being submerged in water, you lose body heat 25 times faster than in the air.”

Two 15-year-old boys fell through the ice on the lake north of Lynnwood just before 3:45 p.m. One of the boys was able to pull himself from the water.

“They were very fortunate someone saw them and called for help immediately,” said district spokesperson Leslie Hynes. “Even though temperatures here have been below freezing for several days, the ice on our lakes and ponds doesn’t get thick enough for anyone to safely walk across it.

Both were about 150 feet from shore when emergency responders arrived on scene. Two members of the fire district’s rescue team – including Erickson – donned cold-water suits and pulled the second boy from the water, bringing him ashore on a rescue board.

Both boys were transported to Providence Regional Medical Center in Everett. Their exact conditions remain unknown.

“The thickness of the ice in Washington can never be used as an indicator of when it might be safe to go out on it,” Erickson said. “The ice gets thinner the farther from shore you get. You can’t expect it to be the same thickness across the whole lake.”

Erickson said the ice rescue was a team effort, and it was his first such rescue in his 26-year career as a firefighter.

"In all those year’s, I’ve never had to perform such a rescue because it’s not a common condition we get out here,” he said. “These are the kinds of things we train for.”

Erickson said he understands that young people might be curious to test the limits of an ice-covered lake.

“It’s tempting, but the consequences of falling through can be fatal,” he said. “Luckily, in this case it wasn’t.”

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