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Stay off the ice: LSL incident shows hidden danger on frozen lakes

93702283At presstime, a 14-year-old boy’s condition continued to show signs of improvement after he and two companions fell through the ice on Lake Sainte Louise in Lake Saint Louis last week.

The boys fell through thin ice about 11:35 a.m. on Jan. 19 in an area on the lake behind the Lake Saint Louis Community Associations offices located at 10 Cognac Drive. The lake is the smaller of the two main community lakes.

The hospitalized boy was underwater between 10 and 13 minutes before he was rescued by police and firefighters responding to the scene. He was taken to Cardinal Glennon Children’s Medical Center.

Another boy in the water also was rescued. The third boy was able to get out of the lake on his own. Police said two boys were treated at hospitals for hypothermia.

In a short statement, the boy’s family said: “We are trusting in God for healing and have seen the power of prayer.”

The Facebook page for Living Word Christian School, where the three boys are eighth-graders, identified the boy hospitalized as John Smith. On Jan. 21, the school’s Facebook page included a post that in part read: “We just heard from John Smith’s mother that he is awake, recognizing people, and moving on command! This is miracle realm, folks!”

According to Lake Saint Louis Police Officer Rick Frauenfelder, Smith had no pulse and wasn’t breathing when he was pulled from the water by Lake Saint Louis and Wentzville firemen. Frauenfelder and Officer Ryan Hall were the first responders to the scene.

Firemen began fibrillation to try to resuscitate him. Police said that hospital personnel were able to get a pulse about 45 minutes later at the medical center. Frauenfelder said the cold temperatures may have helped in reviving the boy.

Before the accident, the boys were seen on the ice by Ron Wilson, the general manager for the association, who was looking out his window. Police say the boys were about 40 yards out on the ice from the association’s boat dock.

Wilson went outside and told the boys to get off the ice because it wasn’t safe. Recent warmer temperatures had thinned the ice to only a few inches deep in spots. He said the boys appeared to be moving off the ice after his warning.

“I went back and sat down and looked out the window and saw them in the water,” Wilson said.

Arriving on the scene, Frauenfelder and Hall saw one boy bobbing in and out of the water and another, Smith, trying to hold on to an ice shelf but appearing to be weakened by the cold water. Smith then disappeared underwater. Lake Saint Louis and Wentzville firemen wearing special suits and gear arrived and located Smith.

Wilson said later that the association, which manages private amenities in Lake Saint Louis, strongly discourages people from going out on the ice when the lakes freeze over. Some families, he said, drill holes to see if the ice is at least six inches before they go out on the ice.

“Last year,” he noted, “the ice on the main lake was 10 inches thick.” But he added the area often doesn’t get consistent cold weather that forms thick ice and warmer temperatures thaw the ice.

Separately from this incident, the Cottleville Fire District also warned residents to stay off the ice this winter. Public Fire Educator Dan Faulkner explained why.

“Cold water carries heat away from the body 25 times faster than air of the same temperature and, as a result, the body’s core immediately begins to lose heat to the outside environment,” Faulkner said. “Within 10 minutes, a person may lose dexterity and motor function in their extremities and is at risk of drowning.”

Faulkner also warned that others should not venture onto the ice to attempt a rescue. Instead call for help first, stay on the shoreline and try to keep the victim calm until help arrives.

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Amy Armour contributed to this story.

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