Two teenagers spent nearly two hours in freezing floodwaters Friday night after they broke through ice in a pond east of here.
Jason Moore and Daniel Shaw, both 17, were found clinging to a floating ice slab by an off-duty jailer who has a home in the area.
Firefighters called to the scene struggled to break through the frozen surface and could only watch as the boys slipped one after the other under the water.
Moore and Shaw were eventually pulled unconscious from the water and flown by helicopter to Deaconess Medical Center in Spokane about 7 p.m. Friday. They were listed in critical condition.
“We’ve trained for this, we have the resources, but tonight they weren’t enough,” said Jim Shubert, assistant fire chief for the St. Maries Rural Fire District.
The boys apparently had gone for a walk across 1-inch thick ice covering a pond off Mill Town Road on the east end of St. Maries, Shubert said.
The pond, now 10 feet deep, is usually only a shallow creek. In fact, much of the area northeast of St. Maries is still under 12 feet of water from last month’s floods.
“We had the afternoon sun shining on the ice and weakening it,” Shubert said. “The kids walked out on thin ice and went right through.”
The boys were first spotted about 4:30 p.m. by off-duty Benewah County jailer Duane Hills.
“He has a home out there and it’s underwater,” Benewah County Sheriff Rodney Thormahlen said. “He was out seeing if he could see his house yet.”
By the time rescuers arrived, the boys were pleading for help about 100 yards from shore. They had fallen through about 30 feet apart from one another.
The fire department sent two men dressed in thick, buoyant rescue suits. Crew members on shore held onto the men with nylon rope as they crawled out over the ice to the teens.
But “the odds were against the kids,” Shubert said.
Seventy yards out on the ice, both firefighters fell through.
The two men floated in water pockets, unable to shimmy back on to the surface. They beat at the ice with their hands, trying to crack their way toward the floundering teens. Instead, the ice would only bend under their weight.
“It felt like you couldn’t do anything,” said rescuer Terry Harwood. “I was trying so hard and nothing worked.”
Harwood could see the boys struggling. One called out to him, “Help me, Terry.”
“In the back of your mind you’re afraid they’re going to go under in front of your eyes,” he said.
Rescuers then sent out a rowboat, but it also could not break through the ice. Drained by their efforts and the frigid temperatures, Harwood and rescuer Randy Roe eventually had to be pulled back to shore.
The Benewah County Sheriff’s Department then sent out a jet boat, but the icy waters stalled the engine. Deputies were able to restart the boat, but as they made their way out, the boys slipped under the surface.
Two boats eventually made it to the spot the boys had been, but darkness began hampering their efforts.
By the time searchers fished the unconscious teenagers out with long poles, one had been submerged 20 minutes, the other about 45 minutes.
“Everything seemed to be working against us,” Shubert said.
“It was traumatic. In a fire you don’t see the victims. Here you could see them.
“It doesn’t seem real.”
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