Tinley cop: Girls rescued from icy pond ‘lucky as they could have been’
BY DONNA VICKROY firstname.lastname@example.org March 8, 2013 1:36PM
An emergency worker walks near a pond inside the Edgewater Walk Condominium Complex along Lakewood Drive after two girls fell through the ice in Tinley Park, IL on Thursday March 7, 2013. | Matt Marton~Sun-Times Media
Updated: April 11, 2013 6:50AM
Luck was on the side of two Tinley Park teenagers who fell through the ice at a retention pond late Thursday afternoon.
“Things were about as lucky as they could have been,” said Dave Walker, who was among three Tinley Park police officers who formed a human chain to rescue the girls.
Walker said he got a call about two girls in their early teens walking across the ice at a pond near the Edgewater Walk condominium complex near Lake Bluff Drive and 167th Street.
“Seconds later, a 911 call came in that two girls had fallen through the ice,” he said.
Walker raced to the scene and was met by off-duty detective Stan Tencza, who lives in the area.
One of the girls had an elbow on the ice and was treading water while hanging on to the other, Walker said. He suspects the girls’ heavy clothing was helping them remain buoyant.
Walker said the rope officers carry in their squad cars was not long enough to reach the girls, who were about 20 feet out from shore, bobbing in a 3-foot-wide hole in the ice. Tencza brought a longer rope, but it still wasn’t long enough to reach the struggling girls.
So Walker said he started wading into the freezing water, breaking ice as he went along.
“I’m only 5-foot-5,” he said. Once he got a few feet off shore, the bottom dropped out.
The taller Tencza then took the lead, with Walker hanging on to him and Officer Russell Borrowdale hanging on to Walker.
Walker said Tencza was up to his neck when he finally got close enough to reach the girls, just as one slipped under the water.
Tencza was able to pluck the girls from the water and pull them to shore, where ambulances were waiting to transport them to South Suburban Hospital in Hazel Crest. He estimates the girls — whom police have not identified — spent five to seven minutes in the water but said they were not hurt.
Afterward, the officers underwent routine checks and received tetanus shots at Ingalls Urgent Care.
Tinley Park Mayor Ed Zabrocki said, “We are all relieved the girls are OK. Those cops did a fantastic job. I know the lake well because I used to take my kids fishing there. You go out four or five feet, and you could be in three feet of water. You go out two more feet, you could be in six feet of water.”
Zabrocki said he was not surprised that the girls were walking on the ice. Kids will be kids, he said.
“I grew up on the East Side (of Chicago),” he said. “You know where Wolf Lake is? We used to go out on that lake all the time in the winter.”
Nevertheless, Walker, who also was involved in a December rescue of two girls trapped in an excavation site in the village, said he went home and reiterated to his kids why no one should ever walk across an icy pond.
“That particular (pond) is very dangerous because it is lower than ground level,” he said. “It doesn’t freeze and thaw at the same rate as ground-level ponds. This one probably began to thaw faster.”
Adding to the danger is the pond’s steep drop-off.
For the most part, Walker said, the village features shallow ponds but this one is at least 6 feet deep.
When asked about being a hero, Walker dismissed the notion.
“In all honesty, this is part of what I do,” he said. “I’m kind of humbled by it all, kind of embarrassed. Facebook is hammering me.
“But anybody else would have done the same thing.”
Contributing: Steve Metsch