When two anglers fell through ice in Northern Indiana, a DNR employee sprang into action, leading a rescue effort and preventing additional problems.
The accident is a reminder to anglers lake ice is becoming increasingly dangerous with the arrival of spring. It happened around noon Thursday, March 19 at J.C. Murphy Lake in Willow Slough Fish and Wildlife Area in Newton County.
Greg Rainford, a laborer at Willow Slough, answered the call to action, literally. A nearby fisherman who witnessed the accident used his cell phone to alert the property office. Rainford answered the phone, then hopped in a truck and raced to a fishing pier where he spotted the anglers, a married couple, about 350 yards from shore in 36 degree water at least 6 feet deep.
Rainford carefully proceeded onto the ice and attempted to rescue the man using a 25-foot throw rope. When the effort failed, Rainford grabbed the man’s hand and pulled him from the water.
“I think the adrenaline kicked in,” Rainford said.
In the meantime, two nearby anglers used Rainford’s throw rope and their own rope to pull the woman back to safety. Paramedics then evaluated the couple. They were cold and wet, but otherwise unharmed, Rainford said.
After the rescue, Rainford and other staff closed the lake and helped remove other fishermen from the ice, said James Kershaw, public lands program manager with DNR Fish & Wildlife.
“Without his quick action, it’s unclear what the outcome would have been,” Kershaw said.
Rainford said the ice at J.C. Murphy on Thursday was four inches thick and looked strong on top but had “honeycombed” underneath.
“It’s deceiving,” he said.
The fishing accident was the second time in two years Rainford has earned recognition for job performance. In 2013, he earned a DNR Fish & Wildlife Award of Excellence for his leadership and willingness to mentor new employees. Rainford has worked at Willow Slough for 29 years.