Arundel man, extension cord save teen from fall in icy creek

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."

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