Cruz Genet, 11, and Anthony Skopick, 10, couldn’t agree. Were the birds out on the ice ducks or geese? There was only one way to find out. So on a chilly January evening last year, the two friends ventured onto the frozen pond near their homes in Frankfort, Illinois, to get a better look. First, they tossed a rock onto the ice to test it, Cruz told NBC 5 Chicago. “Then we stepped on it.” Convinced the ice would hold their weight, Anthony took a few steps, then … FOOMP. He crashed through the seemingly frozen surface.
“There was no sound, no crack,” he told ABC7 Chicago. “I just fell through instantly.”
Cruz rushed to help his panicked friend. FOOMP—the pond swallowed him too.
Cruz managed to lift himself out of the frigid water and onto a more solid section. He then gingerly worked his way toward Anthony. But the ice didn’t hold, and he fell in again. This time, he couldn’t get out.
The boys were up to their necks in icy water and quickly losing feeling in their limbs. Any chance of their freeing themselves was slipping away. Cruz was sure he was going to die.
Anthony’s older sister had seen the boys fall through the ice and started screaming for help.
John Lavin, a neighbor driving nearby on his way to the grocery store, heard her. He quickly pulled over. Seeing the boys, he grabbed a nearby buoy, kicked off his shoes, and ran into the slushy water, chopping his way through the ice with his free fist. “It was kind of a ‘Hulk smash,’” Lavin told NBC 5 Chicago.
Lavin made his way to Cruz and Anthony and hauled them back to land. They were taken to the hospital, where doctors discovered that their five-minute stay in the water had lowered their body temperature nearly ten degrees. Here’s how to save your own life in an emergency, like this one.
Fortunately, the boys have fully recovered, though they are still a little awestruck by their fearless neighbor. “Just to think,” says Cruz, “if he wasn’t there, I could have died.”