Two Arizona teens clung to a dead tree branch in a frozen lake for more than four hours as the thin ice around them began to crack, but they survived after firefighters came to their rescue.
What started out as a fun walk across Fool Hollow Lake for Christian Van Aller, 14, and Alex Orton, 15, in Show Low, Ariz., turned into a daring rescue by emergency crews Wednesday.
“It started really cracking maybe about 20 feet back and that’s when we were trying to hurry and get across and that’s when it really sunk in and broke,” Christian told ABC News.
The teens rushed to the dead tree and its small branches sticking out of the ice. Each lost a shoe in the process and used hats to cover their bare feet.
“We weren’t sure what was going to happen,” Christian said. “If we would fall all the way and have hypothermia and maybe die.”
Orton’s younger brother, Wesley, used his cellphone to call for help from the shore. Instead of calling 911, Wesley decided to call his mother first.
Alex said, “I knew I was going to get into a whole lot of trouble when I got home, that was the main thing going through my head.”
When Christian’s mother, Bonnie, showed up she said she panicked.
“I went out there and I went, ‘Oh, my gosh!’ I just kept praying to keep that tree strong because I just kept thinking that if that tree breaks – they’re gone because we’ll never get them back,” Bonnie Van Aller told ABC News affiliate KNXV-TV.
Rescue crews eventually showed up and used a boat to save the teens, who were still clinging to the tree. Adding to the danger, temperatures dipped below freezing as day turned to night.
A firefighter in a protective suit crawled across the lake using a rope that was used to pull a boat carrying two other firefighters.
“If they were in a different location and ice that thin, the outcome wouldn’t have been so good,” Show Low Fire Department Capt. Brent Mix said.
Alex and Christian were taken to the hospital and released
The teens say they have learned their lesson, but they are not quite out of the woods yet.
“We won’t take away their phones because that’s what saved their lives,” Alex’s mom, Kristen, said, “but I think their Xbox is going to be gone.”