What to be aware of before you go out on ice

Posted: 9:13 AM, Jan 06, 2016
Updated: 2016-01-06 09:13:29-05

It was a scene neither of the two police officers who arrived to it had seen before.

A big dog appeared to have broken through the thin layer of ice on a lake, and its owner had fallen in, too.

"We knew that she was in immediate danger, and we needed to get to her immediately or she was gonna be in even more danger," Bath Township Police Officer Avery Lyon said.

The woman had been in the freezing water at least 15 minutes already.

A neighbor called 911 and said she heard a woman screaming for help and dogs barking.

Officer Lyon and his partner Michael Lapham tried to walk out to the woman, but the ice was too weak to hold them. They started to crawl.

"She was getting pretty tired, you could tell in her voice, so we knew we had to get out there pretty quickly," Lapham said.

But then - the ice started to crack.

"My first thought I remember was 'Uh oh' I'm going under the water," Lapham said. He fell through, but with quick thinking on Lyon's part, he was able to pull him to safety.

"It was a little bit of a panic at first but I had to make sure that we got us out so we could help her even more," Lyon said.

Eventually, with the help of Dewitt Township Police Officer Dominic Johnson, they were able to pull her out with a rope. She went to the hospital, but both she and the dog are expected to be okay.

"The amount of time she was in the water was a scary factor I guess but it was obviously the best outcome we could hope for," Johnson said.

He, other police officers, and firefighters warn people not to go out on ice if they aren't sure it's thick enough. There must be at least 2-4 inches of clear ice for it to be safe, and if the ice is cloudy or there's snow on top, it should be twice that thick.

"If the ice doesn't look very thick, then it's probably a lot thinner than what you even think so just use common sense, be smart," Lapham said.

If you do fall through the ice, here are some tips from Bath County Police: 

1) Try not to panic.

2) Don't remove your winter clothing. Heavy clothes will help insulate you, and snow suits can provide flotation.

3) Turn toward the direction you came, that's probably where the strongest ice is, and try to hold on or climb out that way.

4) Place your hands and arms on the unbroken surface. If help is on the way, this can be the easiest position to hold.

5) Kick your feet and dig in your ice picks or hands to work your way back onto the solid ice. If your clothes have trapped a lot of water, you may have to pull yourself out partially by your elbows to let some of it drain.

6) Lie flat on the ice once you are out and roll away from the hole. Stay flat to keep your weight spread evenly.

7) Get to a warm, dry, sheltered area. In moderate to severe cases of cold-water hypothermia - seek immediate medical attention.