Ice breaker; its training time

INDIAN LAKE, Mich. – A small group of volunteers met at the fire department early Sunday morning, ready to dive into the icy waters of Indian Lake.

A layer of ice covered the lake, it was thick but brittle. “That’s the problem,” the fire chief said, “it melts then refreezes and it’s just not at sturdy as people think.” On Friday, three different people got into trouble on thin ice in Cass County. The fire chief said, “It’s frustrating for us because people don’t realize how much goes into this.”

One of the volunteers jumped on the ice until he broke right through, in a red ice recue suit the man bobbed up and down like the buoy in the water.

“The water is cold, the water is really cold,” Dave Comstock said. The volunteer firefighter and diver said the dive team is still in training, put together after a five-year-old drowned in the lake over the summer. “It was a very tragic drowning, so after that we decided to put together a dive team.” Comstock said it was a wakeup call for everyone, “That’s been the first drowning on this lake that I can remember.”

The ice crunched underneath the rescuer as he headed out onto the ice, “I’m going to be coming behind you, just relax and hold on.” As he got close to the victim, the man got down on his knees and started to crawl in order to distribute his weight.

The volunteer who played the victim shouted for help, “I’m cold, get me out of here,” he yelled. “They’re going to panic and they’re going to be flailing around trying to get out,” Comstock said.

The rescuer rolled into the water, hooked the rope around the victim and gave the signal. With a tap on his helmet, the rescuers on shore began to pull the two back to land.

Comstock said the volunteers cannot practice enough. “We always want to be up to date on our skills and ice rescue training and all that.”

The dive team is on track to get rescue certifications by this summer, but plan to continue to practice in all kinds of weather conditions to make sure they’re ready for whatever come their way on the water. “It’s a lot of fun, it’s fun,” Comstock said, “I hope we never have to use it, but if we do, we’re ready.”


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