Extension cord saves teen from icy creek

Pasadena man tosses line, pulls out youth who fell after walking on thin ice

Anne Arundel

January 22, 2003|By Julie Bykowicz | Julie Bykowicz,SUN STAFF

Lief Anderson grabbed his bright-orange extension cord to throw as a lifeline and raced to the community pier Monday afternoon when he saw a 14-year- old plunge into the icy waters of Cockey Creek in Pasadena.

An hour earlier, several miles away, another 14-year-old had hoisted himself to safety after briefly being totally submerged in the barely frozen Marley Creek in Glen Burnie.

Both teen-agers narrowly escaped serious injury.

But emergency workers fear that as freezing temperatures continue, curious youths -- who might not have seen such ice in several years -- will keep falling through thinly ice-coated bodies of water in the Baltimore area.

"We've had such a prolonged cold snap, there are more opportunities than usual for this to happen," said Division Chief John M. Scholz, a spokesman for the Anne Arundel County Fire Department.

"With how cold it has been, you would assume it's safe to go out. But there's never a safe situation."

Especially in Anne Arundel County, he warned, waters are brackish and tidal, which means ice will not freeze consistently.

"This is a different and difficult area for people who want to walk on ice," he said. "Thickness is very unpredictable."

The Anderson family had just returned from shopping when daughter Jaide, 13, spotted a teen-ager shuffling across the ice toward their Riverside Drive home and asked if she could join him, Anderson said.

After unloading his car, Anderson warned his daughter to keep off the ice and kept a close eye on the boy from his kitchen window that overlooks the creek, he said.

"I was worried," he said. "I knew the ice wasn't that thick."

About 20 feet from the northern shore of the creek that feeds the Magothy River, Brian Hart dropped from sight in water nearly 15 feet deep.

Anderson -- shouting to his wife, Jamie, to get the Jeep started -- ran to his garage to find rope but grabbed an extension cord when he couldn't find any. The couple sped the short distance to the community pier, and Anderson tossed Hart the cord.

"He kept saying he was really cold, and we shouted back, `Grab hold of the cord, and we'll pull you in,'" Anderson said. "Every time he tried to get up on top of the ice, it would break away."

Although he worried the cord would snap, Anderson pulled the teen to waist-high water, where he was able to break the ice and hobble to shore.

Scholz said Anderson wisely avoided stepping onto the weak ice during the rescue effort.

"We sometimes have citizens get themselves into a position where they need to be rescued because they try to rescue someone who has fallen though," he said.

"Seconds count, and his reaction using an improvised instrument like that was very successful."

Scholz warned that there is no substitute for a professional response when someone falls through the ice.

All county firefighters are trained in ice rescues, he said, and many area fire stations have exposure suits that protect emergency workers should they need to enter the frigid water.

Jamie Anderson wrapped Hart in a blanket and drove him back to their house, where he changed into clothes borrowed from her husband. Minutes later, paramedics arrived and took him to North Arundel Hospital.

Medical workers there were already treating Joshua Sullivan, a Glen Burnie 14-year-old who fell through ice covering Marley Creek.

Scholz said it appeared both teens had been exploring the icy surfaces.

Earlier in the weekend in Ocean City, two boys, ages 10 and 8, fell through the surface of a partially frozen man-made lake where they had been chasing a ball.

The 8-year-old, Sam Wilkinson, died after being submerged for about an hour, and the 10- year-old, Nicholas McLoota, was released from Maryland Shock Trauma Center on Monday after being treated overnight.

Scholz said some agencies recommend that the ice be at least 4 inches thick before attempting to walk on it, but he said the only safe bet is to avoid ice altogether.

"Stay off it," he said. "It's not worth it."

Anderson, who moved to the Chelsea Beach community in June, said he is planning to keep a 50-foot rope and a life ring on his pier in case anyone else decides to test the ice.

"I'll definitely be better prepared next time," he said.

"Of course, I'm hopeful there won't be a next time."

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