VERNON, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — Three teenage boys succeeded in rescuing themselves from icy waters in Sussex County, New Jersey this week.
CBS2’s Meg Baker spoke exclusively Tuesday with two of the boys, who took to survival tactics to keep each other alive.
James Henderson, 16,. He pointed to the spot where he, his brother and their friend fell into the Vernon Valley Lake on Monday.
“I was terrified once my brother fell in,” Henderson said.
Henderson, his brother Maximus Badu, and their friend Hunter were out ice fishing when without even a crack to warn them, their friend Hunter fell in.
“My friend Hunter was having a conversation with me. He fell through, and then we like laid down on ice to reach out and help him so we wouldn’t drown, and then my brother fell in,” Henderson said. “I grabbed a boat, swung it towards them, like he’d like to hold onto something, and then I fell in as soon as they got in the boat.”
“I was thinking make sure nobody went under; and make sure everybody gets out safe,” added Badu.
Police said the boys did think ahead. They dragged a small rowboat out to the middle of the lake, and it later served as a rescue vessel.
“The one boy was up to his chest in the water. The other two boys were in the boat, but they were drenched because they had already been in the water,” said neighbor Brian Jernick. “They took their tops off because it was soaking wet and freezing cold.”
Jernick lives on the lake and heard the lake and heard the commotion. His wife called 911 as he ran to get a ladder.
“We had one leg in the boat and one out to kind of like walk across to the edge, and then the ice started to crack again, and we didn’t want to fall back in,” Badu said. “I used the sledgehammer that we had to get it stuck in the ice and pull us all the way to the edge.”
“They were freezing. They were starting to turn a little bit blue,” Jernick said. “But I just said, ‘Get inside.’”
His wife had warm blankets and clothes waiting.
Vernon, New Jersey police Chief Randy Mills explained that the lake has springs that warm it from below – and just because it looks frozen solid doesn’t mean that it is.
“The fact that these boys were able to get themselves out is really remarkable, because it’s extremely hard to do,” Mills said. “Once you’ve fallen in the water, there’s nothing to grab onto to assist you to get out.”
Badu said his father taught him the survival tactics he used out on the ice. He kept calm by saying, “Fear is healthy, panic is deadly.”
The boys said they are so thankful to the first responders from the Vernon Township ambulance squad, and the Jernick family, who took care of them.