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Four youths rescued after falling into frozen pond in north suburb

Robert George 40 Third Lake Lake County jumped infrozen pond with rope rescue boy after hearing screams thkids had fallen

Robert George, 40, of Third Lake in Lake County jumped into a frozen pond with a rope to rescue a boy after hearing screams that kids had fallen through the ice across the street from his home on Thursday, Feb. 16, 2012. Though dried off and in a change of clothes, he's holding a warming pad to keep his hands warm after the dip in the water. | Ryan Pagelow~Sun-Times Media

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Updated: February 17, 2012 2:06AM



Robert George said the ice has been thin this mild winter on the pond near his house off Third Lake, where children are normally able to skate and play hockey in a normal February.

But on Thursday, that ice gave way when four young people ventured out, and George was among the Mariner’s Cove residents who suddenly found themselves in rescue mode.

In fact, George ended up taking an unscheduled swim.

“I was working on the computer and my kids came in yelling that someone fell through the ice,” George said. “So I ran out, dressed in a T-shirt and sweatpants, and saw that two of them were out a ways and two others were closer, and there were some adults trying to throw them a rope.”

That rope just happened to be in the garage of Izabela Stepien, who also responded to the call for help.

“My neighbor was screaming that some kids were in the pond, so I went and grabbed the rope, which luckily was hanging in the garage. We use it during the summer for tubing,” Stepien said. “By the time we got out there, the smallest one was able to crawl out on his own, but we had to throw the rope to two of them and pull them out.”

Stepien added that “I thought they would have to tie it around them, but they just grabbed on and we pulled them in. One of my neighbors was behind me pulling, too.”

But for the fourth one, George said, the rope method wasn’t working.

“He was about 50 feet out and he said his legs were getting numb, so I just went in after him,” he said. “I tied the rope around my waist and climbed over the ice, then started swimming when I could.”

George said he reached the final victim and they were both hauled ashore. All involved — a 16-year-old boy, two 9-year-old boys and a 12-year-old girl — were checked at the scene by arriving crews from the Grayslake Fire Protection District, and a Lake County Sheriff’s Office spokesman reported that no one had to be hospitalized.

“They are all safe, that’s the important thing,” Stepien said.

As for George, he was asked how he was feeling about an hour after his plunge into the not-quite-frozen pond.

“I’ve been in cold water before, but not with ice in it,” he said. “The hands and toes are still a little cold, and I’ve got scratches from the ice, but I’m gettin’ there.”



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