CENTER TOWNSHIP -- A quick response by the members of the Valparaiso Fire Department Ice Rescue Team helped a Center Township man survive a plunge Saturday into the icy waters of Flint Lake.
Gregory O'Neil was listed in fair condition at Porter Memorial Hospital a couple hours after the early afternoon accident.
O'Neil had been ice fishing with his son just off Hill Crest beach at the north end of the lake when the ice broke beneath his feet and he slipped into the frigid waters below, said Porter County police Officer Jesse Klemz.
The son attempted to help his father by handing him the auger they had used to dig a hole in the ice.
"When that did not work, his son ran up here on shore yelling for help," Klemz said.
A passerby heard the boy and notified authorities.
The city Fire Department received the call at 12:29 p.m. and six minutes later, the ice rescue team had O'Neil out of the water and in a warm ambulance, said Valparaiso Fire Battalion Chief Robert Edgecomb.
"It was just that quick," he said.
Team member Morgan Hein used a sled equipped with pontoons to safely cross the ice and reach the point where O'Neil had slipped through, Edgecomb said. He removed O'Neil from the water and team members pulled the sled back to shore.
"As quick as he went out, he came back," Edgecomb said.
Alan Fix, an officer with the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, who trains the ice rescue team, caught the end of the rescue and was impressed with what he saw.
"On the scale of 1 to 10, this was a 10," he said.
Fix was handed a chunk of the ice taken from the spot where O'Neil fell in and he measured it at 1 inch. The average measurement of the lake ice is 3 inches, he said, but it fluctuates from one spot to another.
O'Neil was not alone in ice fishing Saturday. Fix said he spent the day checking out those fishing on various lakes in the area. The Times
Valparaiso Rescue Sled