CROWN POINT | A father and daughter's afternoon of sledding at the Lake County Fairground almost turned tragic Friday when the child fell through ice partially covering Fancher Lake.
Shannon McCloskey, 4, was clinging to a small, black sled in the water when Crown Point Fire Department officials arrived at the scene. Her father, Ryan McCloskey, jumped into the lake twice to save her but wasn't able to get to her, said fire Chief Gregory DeLor.
Both Shannon and Ryan, who live in Crown Point, were taken to St. Anthony's Hospital for mild hypothermia and evaluation. They were released Friday night, said Shannon's mother, Jennifer.
Jennifer McCloskey said her husband and daughter had taken a sled ride together when Shannon wanted to ride on her own. "By herself there was not enough weight to slow her down and she continued to careen out on the ice," Jennifer McCloskey said.
According to DeLor, officials got the call about the accident at 1 p.m., after people near the lake witnessed the girl's fall.
Mike Bartos, of Hobart, was inside the Lake County Fairground building, arranging to rent it for an auction, when an employee came in to make the 911 call.
"The sled was in the lake and she was using it like a little boat. She was clinging to it for her life. Her dad was soaking wet because he was trying to get her out," he said.
When Capt. Tim Tully arrived in a rescue truck he saw the girl floating on the plastic sled in a soaked snowsuit. "She had a kind of death grip on that sled," he said.
After first trying a rescue with a life preserver, Tully entered the lake wearing a thick neoprene suit and a rope around his waist. The buoyant suit kept him afloat in the lake that's locally famous for its depth, he said.
Ice cracking under him as he went, he reached Shannon and wrapped his arms around her, he said. Firefighters on shore tugged them to safety with the rope, Tully said.
"It was a simple rescue, actually," said Tully, 34, a 12-year veteran firefighter. "A textbook example of how we do it in the training."
Paramedic Tim Martin assisted with helping Shannon out of the water.
"Their response time was really quick. I give them a lot of credit for the rescue," Bartos said.
In fact, DeLor said a dive unit made it to the lake at 1:03 p.m. and brought Shannon, conscious and alert, to shore at 1:11 p.m.
"The problem is hypothermia sets in in the cold water," said DeLor, who estimated the water temperature to be in the low 30s. "We're quite fortunate that the Crown Point has a dive unit here on station. On-duty divers responding makes a big difference in the outcome. If she had to wait, we may not have had the successful outcome we did."
DeLor said last week's warm weather melted the ice on the lake to only about one-half inch in thickness. They warned people to stay off of it until a safe layer of at least four inches of ice accumulates.
Tully downplayed suggestions he is a hero.
"I just happened to get dressed first," he said.
Jennifer McCloskey gave thanks to the rescuers anyway.
"We realize how lucky we are," she said.