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Monday, February 23, 2009

Ice

Let me tell you something about ice. It scares the heck out of me. Decorum prevents me from using stronger language.

We had a horrible incident Saturday in North Abington Township, Lackawanna County. A little girl went into an ice covered pond. The mother tried to rescue the child, and needed help. Two men were the first on the scene. One died of a heart attack. The other drowned.

It's all so sad. We toss around the word "hero" a lot. It really fits the case here.

Kids will be kids. They do unwise things, so I'm not going to come down on the child. We all have to realize, regardless of age, that ice is nothing to fool with, even when it's very cold. The ice might look safe. Often, it isn't.

Any time there's an "ice" incident, I think of a story I did in 91 or 92, when I was working "down the street." A man had to be rescued from an ice covered lake in Lycoming County. I was sent there the next day to do the "follow up" story. We talked with someone who was there when it happened, then did an ice safety story.

This is a little "inside TV" but I'll pass along the information anyway. Back then, we were shooting on 3/4 inch video tape. TV news veterans will know what I'm talking about. The recorder was separate from the camera. They were connected by a cable. Both the recorder and camera were big, bulky, and heavy-- unlike today's relatively light one-piece units. Let's just say the photographer I was working with was a "big boy." It was winter. He wore a pair of heavy, enormous boots that would have made Jethro Bodine proud.

As we walked out onto the lake, I heard the ice crack beneath us. That's natural. Still, it's disconcerting-- even though we received assurances the ice was of the proper thickness. All I could think about was "with our weight and all this gear, if this ice breaks, we're going straight down, and they'll never find us."

We did the interviews, shot some video of people on the frozen lake, and got out of there as quickly as possible. The safety of the truck, on dry, solid ground, never felt better.

Ice activities are generally safe, but you have to respect the fragility of an ice covered lake. Yes, it's a cliche, but it can be a matter of life and death.