A man and his dog were rescued Friday afternoon after falling through the ice on Totten Lake.
Crews from the Cortez Fire Protection District responded to a 911 call at 2:30 p.m. and were the first on scene. The man had fallen through the ice about 50 yards offshore near the dam, said Jay Balfour, chief of the Cortez Fire Protection District.
He attempted to rescue his dog, which had fallen through the ice 50 feet farther out.
Wearing ice rescue suits, firefighters Chad Ertz and Tyrel Matthews maneuvered onto the ice to rescue the man and his dog. Ertz went out first, tethered by a rope to the shore team.
When he reached the man, he was hanging onto the edge of the ice in deep water. Ertz fastened a sling around the victim, and the shore crew began to pull him in.
Ertz had to calm the man down, and persuade him to lie flat, so he could be pulled onto the ice. The man, age 45, was not identified.
“The victim was trying to pull himself out of the water but kept breaking through the ice,” Balfour said.
As rescue crews attended to him, Matthews went out to save the dog.
When Matthews arrived, the dog was very cooperative and calm, Balfour said. It was wearing a heavy-duty harness, and Matthews clipped the rescue rope onto it, and they were pulled to safety.
“The man was cold and in mild shock but will be OK,” Balfour said. “The dog shook off and seemed fine. Great job by the rescue personnel and whoever called 911.”
The man had been in the frigid water for eight to 10 minutes when the rescuers arrived, he said.
“He may not have lasted more than a couple more minutes,” Balfour said. “We’re so glad it turned out all right.”
Rescuers sprinted about a quarter-mile along the muddy shore to access the victim. After he was pulled ashore, rescuers had him walk for a while to keep his circulation up. Then he was placed in a heavy-duty carrier and hauled by several people to the Southwest Health System ambulance waiting at the dock.
“He was pretty speechless, hypothermic and in mild shock,” Balfour said.
The victim was attempting to rescue his dog when he fell through. That was a mistake, Balfour said, because people weigh more than pets and usually fall through the ice before they reach the animal, as in this case.
“Call 911, and we will respond to rescue the pet,” Balfour said, adding that his crew practiced ice rescues earlier this month.
Because of higher temperatures and rainfall, lake ice is very unstable right now, Balfour said.
The Dolores Fire Protection District, Lewis-Arriola Fire Department and Montezuma County Sheriff’s Office also responded to the scene to provide backup equipment and personnel for the rescue.