ATHOL, Mass. --
Two young children and a woman who were ice fishing on a lake in Athol were rescued after they fell through the ice and spotted by a man who just happened to be walking by.
I started screaming, looking for help and hoped to God that someone could hear, said Sileng Lheureux, 34, who fell into the water with her children, ages 3 and 11.
Uncut: Rescued Family's Emotional Reunion
A former firefighter who lives near Lake Ellis saw the ice give way at about 9:15 a.m. Wednesday and called police. Lee Chauvette said that he saw the woman and children on the ice when he left for work.
He realized he forgot something and when he returned home, he spotted the group falling through the ice.
Officials in Athol called the timing of Chauvette's return home a "Christmas miracle."
Thank God the guy could hear and help me. If it's not him, we are all going to die in the water, said Lheureux.
"It was just unbelievable situation. I went to drop off a food permit and returned home for my checkbook," Chauvette said. "I live on Lake Ellis. I saw three people on the ice, and I went to the top of the driveway and physically saw them fall through the ice."
Chauvette, who spent 20 years as a firefighter, said that he went out to help but his feet fell through the ice.
"I managed to stay with them until help arrived," he said.
Lheureuxs husband, Darren, who cried as he hugged his wife and children, said he had lost his best friend to an ice fishing accident on another pond three years ago.
My father called me at work and told me my wife and kids almost drowned, he said.
About 12 rescuers helped pull Lheureux and her children out of the water.
They were taken to Athol Memorial Hospital and later released.
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