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Woman recounts story of icy rescue

January 15, 2012

The Morning News — Joe Williams Ann takes her three schnauzers (Sharky, Purty, and Addie) for a walk a few weeks after spending almost 30 minutes in the freezing water at Jensen Grove while trying to save them from drowning after they fell through the ice.

Editor's Note: The woman in this story requested that we only use her first name.
BLACKFOOT — "I just couldn't watch her drown. There was an overwhelming feeling that I needed to do something now."
That's why Ann went against everything she has been taught about the ice.
On Nov. 29 she went to Jensen Grove with her three schnauzers to feed some leftover popcorn to the ducks. Two of the dogs were on a leash with the third allowed to roam.
"I let the one that usually minds the best just run free," she said.
She came to regret that decision.
"When we got close to the water she saw the ducks and she just took off running after them." Ann said. "She ran across the ice and when she got about halfway across she just dropped in."
Ann didn't waste any time thinking about her own well- being.
"There was no way I was going to watch my dog drown and sit and do nothing."
She knows all the dangers of being on the ice. She's heard the "do not do this" lecture time and time again. Ignoring the lectures, she took off her coat.
"I thought, 'it can't be that deep and I'm a good swimmer,'" she said.
She knew that she needed to spread out her weight, so she started to crawl across the ice. She made it about halfway to her dog (10 feet) before she broke through the ice.
The two other dogs came to check on her and she tried to shoo them away from the water but instead they headed towards the dog that was already in the water and both fell through as well.
Ann was able to use her arms to break the ice, which was about two inches thick, until she got to the three dogs in the water. The water was too deep for her to touch the ground so she had to tread water while, one by one, she grabbed the dogs and tossed them out of the water.
"After I got them out of the water the dogs just ran off and headed towards the shore so I was glad about that. They are the reason I was in there in the first place," Ann said.
Ann swam back to the spot where she fell in and tried to pull herself out. She tried to spread out her weight and pull herself onto the ice, but her weight pulled the ice down into the water and she wasn't able to get up. She tried this about five times without success. By this time she was freezing and exhausted.
"I probably could have broken through the ice, but I didn't have any strength left," she said.
That's when she heard the sirens.
"I didn't know anyone had called until I heard the sirens," Ann said. "That's when the reality of the situation finally came."
It didn't take much longer for rescuers to arrive, but they weren't able to get to Ann. It was so muddy, they couldn't get a vehicle close enough to her. They tried to throw her a rope, but it wasn't long enough.
Firefighter Rob Dansie slid across the ice and was able to get the rope far enough that Ann could reach it.
"When I saw them getting out onto the ice I felt bad that they were possibly getting themselves into trouble because I didn't make the best choice," she said.
Ann put the rope around her body and they started to pull. The ice around her was breaking but she wasn't coming out of the water. Rescuers instructed Ann to get her knees up above the ice and once she was able to do that, "I just remember being zipped in," she said.
"I've never been so cold," she said. "At that point I was pretty out of it. I was whisked away to the hospital."
She was there for just a couple hours. Doctors gave her warm IVs, hot chocolate and lots of blankets.
After being in the freezing water for nearly 30 minutes, Ann came away virtually unscathed. Her arms were pretty bruised up for a couple weeks afterwards and she has a little bit of numbness in her fingers that she is hoping will continue to improve. The dogs are fine.
"I really felt like I was protected and lucky," Ann said. "I am so grateful that we have those people in our community and we can rely on them to protect us when we get into trouble. It was scary when I finally came to the realization that I might be in some trouble, but I knew they were coming so there was never a point where I thought I was going to lose my life.
I wish I would have had the chance to give them a big hug."

 

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