Quick thinking is all that stood between life and death for a man who jumped into the frozen waters of Lake Michigan Sunday, only to realize he couldn’t get out.
Veteran Chicago Police Officer Wadell Hardy risked his own life to go out on the ice to rescue the man after hearing him screaming for help from the waters near Oak Street Beach.
With the help of the Chicago Fire Department’s Marine and Dive operations unit the man was saved, but not everyone can be so lucky. As they do every winter, city officials are warning people to stay off the ice.
“Today is a good example,“ said Chicago Fire Department Deputy District Chief Ron Dorneker. “With the sun out, it can weaken the ice in an area. Some of this ice has been covered in snow that insulates the ice hiding the cracks.”
So what happens if you do fall through the ice? The Fire Department says you will lose body heat and strength quickly, so you should first try to get yourself out.
“If you fall through turn right back around, get your arms up on that ice shelf, kick your feet as hard as you can and try to climb up,” Dorneker said. “[Once you’re up] roll away from the hole and then crawl back to the shoreline.”
If that doesn’t work, call 911 or yell for someone else to call.
“If the person is close enough to shore, we don’t want to go in the water if we don’t have to,” Dorneker said. “So we would reach to them using [a special] stick and we would be able to pull him out with that.”
The second option rescue workers use is throwing a rope. The third option and last resort is sending a firefighter in the water to retrieve the victim themselves, which is what the Fire Department did last February when they had to rescue a man who was trying to save his dog that had wandered out onto the ice.
“When things get out of hand and we have to go in the water, that’s when we use our reels,” Dorneker said. “So we are going to put lines on people and send them out into the water and make physical contact with the person. That’s [also] the most dangerous thing we do.”