When I was young, the first thing I wanted to do after opening presents Christmas morning was to go outside and play. All the kids would compare their hauls and show off their favorite gifts before it was time to have the official holiday dinner.
This year’s cold front made the weather this Christmas particularly unforgiving. Still, an 8-year-old boy named Jason in New Harmony, Utah, was enjoying the evening running around with his dog.
Then, around 5 p.m., another child saw the boy fall through the ice and called for help. The boy was trapped in freezing cold water.
Sgt. Aaron Thompson of the Washington County Sheriffs Department was first on the scene and realized there wasn’t time to wait. As a former member of the dive rescue team, he did not hesitate to strip down and go after Jason.
All Thompson had to go on were reports that the child was last seen 25 feet from shoreline. With no equipment, Thompson started to punch the ice with his bare hands.
He pounded the ice, breaking it apart until he was far enough out, then dove under multiple times until he located Jason. Then, he dove under the ice and grabbed the boy, brought him to the surface, and pulled him back to shore.
UPDATE: This photo shows the path a sergeant created through a frozen pond to pull an 8-year-old boy from under the ice in southern Utah Monday. Details: https://t.co/untf6Eieui pic.twitter.com/Q9lskiCfm0
— FOX 13 News Utah (@fox13) December 26, 2017
When they reached the shore, appropriate rescue teams had arrived, ready to assist both the near-frozen child and the element-battered sergeant. “I knew what I was getting into,” Thompson told reporters on Dec. 26.
From his experience, he knew how cold the water was, and in-turn how long a child could likely survive the frigid temperatures. To return the boy alive, there was no time to wait.
Jason was taken to Dixie Regional Medical Center and then transported to Primary Children’s Hospital. His grateful family reported that Jason was awake, responsive, and doing well.
The family have asked for privacy while they focus on Jason’s recovery. His father did comment that this “Christmas miracle” has been a reinforcing example that “God hears and answers prayers.”
Ice water, however, is not only dangerous for small children. The freezing temperatures can cause life-threatening shock responses in the body including hypothermia and gangrene.
“I couldn’t feel anything. I didn’t notice anything when I was doing it,” Thompson told KUTV. “I knew that time was of the essence. I had a very short window to get that child out of the water.
“As the ice got thicker, I couldn’t break it with my arms and my fists anymore, so I had to jump up on top of the ice, putting my weight on it, and then pound on it to get it to break.”
The heroic Thompson was in “bad shape” after the ordeal and was treated for signs of hypothermia and apparent nerve damage from punching the ice. As of Dec. 26, he was regaining feeling in his hands.
Even though Thompson went above and beyond the expectations of his duty, he doesn’t consider himself a hero for his successful and daring rescue. “Everybody huddled around to make sure that child had the best chance,” he told Gepheart Daily. “If there was a hero that night it was us, not me.”
Regardless of his modesty, Thompson is a hero. Past training aside, going into freezing water without any protection is not in his job description. His character compelled him to make the choice to do what he could to save that child’s life.
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