VILLAGE OF SHAWNEE – A fisherman submerged in subarctic lake water for nearly 45 minutes, four emergency departments trying to pull him out, and a MedFlight helicopter emergency transport.
This is what Perry County rescuers faced Sunday afternoon at Tecumseh Lake, but according to Shawnee Fire Chief John Arkley that’s pretty atypical winter incident in the county.
Arkley said since he became chief in 2001, the department has not seen a serious water rescue incident like this.
The Fairfield County water team was dispatched Sunday but were canceled after the situation was under control.
“We didn’t really think we could just standby with his condition,” Arkley said.
While the fisherman was successfully rescued and is expected to be OK, these incidents are something Shawnee crews will prepare for in the future as outdoor activities increase in popularity in the area.
The fisherman, a Shawnee resident, is home now and doing well, Arkley confirmed. The doctor reportedly credit the good outcome to the man staying calm and preserving his energy.
Perry County Deputy Storm Rushing arrived shortly after Shawnee crews. He volunteered to go onto the ice and assist the man by hand.
“I was the smallest one so I knew had the best chance of not falling in,” he said.
He said it’s the most dangerous situation he encountered on the job since joining law enforcement about a year ago.
Crews stood on shore and on the ice, pulling ropes as Rushing secured it around the fisherman’s body.
Rushing was transported to Genesis Somerset ER by ambulance for pre-hypothermia symptoms. He was discharged on Sunday.
Arkley said it was important for crews to evenly distribute weight across the ice to prevent breakthrough.“The biggest thing you can’t get a lot of people in the same area.”
But as more people take to outdoor activities like ice fishing, he recommends people to follow Ohio Department of Natural Resources recommendations for high-risk recreation.
ODNR advises no ice is safe ice. Clear ice tends to be safer to stand on than cloudy ice, but always proceed with caution. Always fish with a partner or around other ice anglers, or at least let a trusted person know where you’ll be fishing that day. Get a fishing license.
Like Arkley said of his crews, ODNR suggests to keep your body flat while fishing to evenly distribute your weight across the ice.
If you see someone else fall in, reach them with a stick, fishing pole or rope. And always call for help.
The rescue was something that the crews could handle on Sunday, but Arkley said as the snow begins to melt officials will devise and after-action plan to make sure they’ll have enough equipment and a new plan for future incidents.
“In the end we have to tell ourselves the guy is alive, he’s going to recover,” he said. “(We’re evaluating) what went right, what went wrong, what we can do to improve.”