JEFFERSON — A 12-year-old girl who fell through the ice on the Rock River while trying to get her dog on Tuesday is safe after being rescued by emergency personnel.
Two men who tried to rescue the girl by using a canoe at a nearby restaurant where they were dining also were rescued after the canoe capsized.
“Everybody was OK,” said Jefferson Police Chief Kenneth Pileggi.
At 5:43 p.m. on Tuesday, Jefferson EMS, Fire and Police were dispatched to the scene after a report that three people had broken through the ice on the river near the footbridge by Heron’s Landing restaurant.
According to Ed Soleska, owner of the Heron’s Landing, the girl was walking a dog near the Milwaukee Street Pedestrian Bridge when the dog went out onto the ice and the girl followed to try to retrieve the animal.
“The 12-year old girl was on the ice with her dog and the dog got away from her, and as she chased the dog toward the walkbridge the thin ice gave away and she fell through, along with the dog, into the frigid water,” Pileggi said.
Three patrons who were dining at Heron’s Landing witnessed the break-through, and knowing there was a canoe outside the restaurant, attempted to rescue the girl.
However, the canoe capsized, and the two men who had been in the canoe spilled into the frigid water.
Arriving on the scene, Jefferson Fire Chief Ron Wegner deployed flotation devices with ropes to pull the victims out of the water, according to a press release by the Jefferson Police Department.
Wegner, assisted by his staff, police officers and citizens, pulled the 12-year old from the water first. Wegner then pulled the second male from the water and then pulled the third male from the river.
“The rescue, from the time of the page out to getting the victims safely into the ambulance, took 12 minutes which is remarkable,” Pileggi said.
The dog was pushed to safety by the adult males attempting to rescue the 12-year old girl prior to the canoe capsizing, Pileggi said. Other patrons attempted, unsuccessfully, to utilize a long log to get to the girl.
“The heroic actions of Chief Ron Wegner of the Jefferson Fire Department, his staff, the police officers and good Samaritans clearly helped to avert a potentially tragic situation,” Pileggi said. “Special recognition should be given to Chief Wegner who, utilizing the throw bag, was able to get the device to each one of the victims in the water while leading the rescue operations.”
Jefferson Fire Department, the Jefferson Emergency Medical Service and the Jefferson Police Department responded to the scene.
“We don’t even know the names of the customers who tried to go in to save the girl, as they were cold and drenched,” Soleska said, stating that he believes all who went into the icy water were transported to an area hospital to be checked over.
Pileggi said that based on the warm weather, people should not go onto the ice. He offered the following tips about going on the ice in Jefferson County:
• Don’t go alone on ice ever. Head out with friends or family. Take a cell phone if available, and make sure someone knows where you are and when you are expected to return.
• Know the ice conditions, which often are unpredictable, before you choose to go on any ice.
• Don’t travel in areas you are not familiar and don’t travel at night or during reduced visibility on ice you do not know whether walking or on a snowmobile/UTV or ATV.
• Avoid inlets, outlets or narrows that might have underwater current that can thin the ice — such as the Rock and Crawfish rivers.
• Look for clear ice, which generally is stronger than ice with snow on it or bubbles in it.
• Carry some basic safety gear: ice claws or picks, a cellphone in a waterproof bag or case, a life jacket and length of rope if you choose to go out on the ice.