A Chicago man is thanking selfless police officers who “absolutely” saved his life after he got trapped by ice in the glacial waters of Lake Michigan.
The man, who wished to remain anonymous, released a statement Monday recounting the harrowing experience of how he almost died trying to save his dog and how officers formed a human chain to rescue them, according to WLS-TV Chicago.
“They absolutely saved my life and I will be forever grateful to them,” the statement read of the incident that occurred ahead of the sub-zero temperatures of an impending polar vortex.
The Chicago Police Department released the bodycam video showing the dramatic rescue on Sunday when they were called to help the 33-year-old man who had plunged into the frigid lake to save his American Eskimo dog, Pika, who had broken loose on a walk and run over the ice.
Full police video below:
“We didn’t talk about it, we just kind of did it,” Chicago Police Sgt. Alex Silva said of the rescue during a press conference Monday.
A witness who saw the man fall into the 34-degree water called police who quickly arrived and got to work. The man had gotten his 19-pound puppy out safely but was unable to scale the ice walls that surrounded the shore.
“He was standing in water up to about chest high, but he was numb,” Silva said. “He couldn’t hold anything. He couldn’t climb out. There was no way to climb out. It was sheer ice. We actually, if you watch the video, we’re falling, just trying to get to the edge near the water. He could not have gotten out on his own.”
Five police officers formed a human chain after crawling on their knees and getting over the icy ridge, using a leash someone had given them to pull the dog owner out.
“The challenging part of this was we were getting hit by waves. So I understand why he couldn’t get out by himself,” Officer Brian Richards explained. “It was more slippery than just simple ice, it was constantly getting him by waves.”
The man was taken to the hospital where he was treated and released. His dog was also reportedly in good condition, according to police.
On Monday, he expressed his gratitude in a statement as he recalled the events that transpired Sunday afternoon.
Explaining how he had “been visiting that beach and park in all weathers for years with my recently deceased dog, Bowser,” he said he took his 9-month old puppy there for the first time.
“He was very excited and got away from me, ran down to the beach, and then to the edge of the large ice ridges that form during cold winters,” he continued. “I saw him disappear over the ridge. I ran up and looked down six feet to see him paddling in freezing cold water. He is a 19 pound dog and I knew that he would soon die from cold or drowning. I jumped in after him. The water was only to my waist and I lifted him onto my shoulder.”
He recounted the ‘ice walls that rose two feet above my head” along the shoreline and how the “bulbous and smooth” surface made climbing out impossible as his hands had now become “numb and flipper-like.” He shared how he used his waterproof phone to call 911, unaware that a passer-by had already done so, getting police there quickly.
“The first responders treated me and my dog in the ambulance and the emergency room. They allowed Pika to stay with me under the warming blanket in the ER. My core body temperature had dropped to 93 degrees,” he recalled.
“I have no doubt that I would have died without help, I am forever grateful to them,” he added. “Pika and I are both fully recovered and in debt to our gracious and heroic first responders.”
No doubt there were many who were grateful that the dramatic rescue was not undertaken a few days later when severe weather descended on the Midwest and has so far been connected to at least a dozen deaths.
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