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Pend Oreille sheriff, deputy rescue woman who had fallen through ice

A collision with a logging truck didn’t prevent the Pend Oreille County sheriff and a deputy from rescuing a 60-year-old woman who had fallen through the ice into the Pend Oreille River on Thursday morning.

A report of cries for help from across the river mobilized Deputy Steve Beery and Sheriff Alan Botzheim just after 9 a.m.

While they were en route to the reported area 11 miles north of Cusick, a logging truck pulled out to pass a car as Botzheim was passing the truck on state Route 20. The truck struck Botzheim’s cruiser, ripping off the passenger side mirror.

“He didn’t see me, apparently,” Botzheim said. “I was about an inch from the guardrail. It was close.”

Botzheim didn’t stop to identify the truck and continued to the rescue scene.

Beery arrived at 9:28 a.m. to see a woman in the water holding onto a piece of ice. She had lost the strength to move, having been in the frigid water more than 20 minutes, and called faintly for help.

Beery stripped off his uniform and went out onto the ice. “He was in his underwear and T-shirt and a life vest with a rope around his waist,” Botzheim said. “He was very brave.”

The ice repeatedly broke and dropped him into the water as he struggled to get the woman out. Botzheim held the rope as, after several attempts, Beery finally was able to bring the woman to shore.

The two carried her up a steep embankment to her house, where they had to break a window to get inside, Botzheim said. “We actually had a difficult time carrying her up the embankment,” he said. “She couldn’t help at all.”

The woman was taken to Newport Community Hospital, where she is expected to recover. It was a reunion of sorts: The woman is a retired Pend Oreille County sheriff’s dispatcher.

Beery suffered no ill effects from his dip in the river, Botzheim said.

The woman had gone onto the ice to get a dog. One of her four dogs is missing and presumed drowned, Botzheim said.

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