ST. LOUIS COUNTY, Mo. (KTVI) – Firefighters and paramedics in St. Louis County, Missouri, picked the perfect day to train for an icy water rescue, because they happened to be in the right place at the right time to rescue two people who fell through the ice.
Crews with the Maryland Heights Fire Protection District were wrapping up their training at Creve Couer Lake Park in Maryland Heights on Tuesday when they spotted a couple of teenagers on the frozen surface of the lake.
“I looked over and saw two people running and I turned to [the] chief, and I said, ‘Hey chief,’ and I kind of pointed in that direction,” said Jan Muschany, the deputy chief medical officer for Maryland Heights Fire Protection District.
“I glanced over and thought, ‘Yeah, that’s just an accident waiting to happen,'” said Steve Rinehart, the assistant chief. “And the minute I thought that, they dropped through the ice.”
Every single person on the crew switched gears immediately. “We went from a training mode to a rescue mode,” said Rinehart.
Crews moved the fire trucks to get as close as possible to the two teens in the water. Muschany took over as commander and made sure all operations were running exactly how they had practiced just moments before. Fire and rescue personnel got back into their gear and jumped into action.
The crew’s drone, flying above, captured footage of two people struggling in the water. There was also a hat on the ice, and crews thought there might have been a third victim. Thankfully, they confirmed that wasn’t the case.
“We were very limited because we only had one company there, but we had to react,” Rinehart added.
A normal response from the fire station to Creve Couer Lake Park would have taken about three to four minutes. This one took just seconds, and that could have been the saving grace for these two teens.
“We don’t have a lot of time, by the time we got out there … they were already losing their dexterity; they weren’t able to grab onto anything,” David Herman, a firefighter and paramedic, and one of the men who rescued the teens, said.
The ice was so thin, it was also breaking underneath the first responders.
“This is why we come out and train every year,” said Jon Krueger, a firefighter and EMT who helped in the rescue. “They have no traction, so they’re relying on people on the shore to pull them in.”
Meanwhile, rescue crews had just one message to share after Tuesday’s incident: “Stay off the ice. It’s that simple.”