Fire officials from several Massachusetts communities raced to a pond in Boylston after four people fell through the ice Monday afternoon.
Rescue crews say it all started when an ice fishermen fell into the water shortly after 2 p.m. and began yelling for help.
Jim Hughes heard "help!" coming from the waters of Rocky Pond.
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It was coming from his neighbor who’d been fishing and fell through the ice.
“I was just hollering that I was coming to let him know somebody was on their way,” said Hughes, who walked out on the ice to help, and then fell through himself. “I was out probably 30 to 40 yards and I went through the ice.”
Hughes made it back to shore.
Meanwhile, a crew of guys building a new home on the pond heard the commotion.
One of the men, Brian Bartlett, grabbed a raft and ventured out to help.
“I grabbed the tube, went into the water there and I was breaking through the ice immediately," Bartlett shared. "But I was able to stay on the float and eventually get a little traction and skate my way out of to the guy out there.”
Two other men who’d been working with Bartlett also attempted to reach the fisherman, but ended up plunging through the ice and had to be rescued by their co-workers.
Bartlett was able to reach the fisherman who was conscious but struggling.
“I told him to kick his feet,” said Bartlett. “I was able to drag him onto the raft, got him up to his chest...I was finally able to get him all the way onto the raft.”
They were then reeled in by firefighters who had a hovercraft and ice rescue sled.
“It’s scary," eyewitness Kyle Sydow said. "Everybody just acts on instinct and they just go out and help. Some guys didn’t even take their tool belts off.”
Lakeside residents say the ice has been way too thin for anyone to be fishing.
"It's been too warm really for it to freeze overnight." said Carly Goodell. "So I feel like you know with just the past couple of warm days it really just made it thin enough for someone to kind of go right through."
The Boylston Fire Department say the fisherman, who was in the water for about 30 minutes, was showing signs of hypothermia and was taken to a local hospital. The other three seemed to be okay.
In a statement to NBC10 Boston, the fisherman, who does not want to be identified, said, "Honestly this isn’t about me. It’s about the three individuals who risked their own lives to save me. Their heroism was truly remarkable and really show what true character and selflessness really is all about. In today’s day and age all we hear about is negativity. Yet these three individuals risked everything they have to try and save me. To try and thank them enough would be impossible. All the Fire, police, ambulance people that were there are truly unbelievable at their jobs and the towns of Boylston, Berlin, Clinton, Northboro and Shrewsbury should be grateful that they have such dedicated and devoted people who work for their towns."
The fisherman's statement continued, "I really need to emphasize it's not about me. And I don’t want it to be about me. It’s about those three individuals who risked their lives to save mine. A total stranger to each of them. That is true selflessness. They should be commended and recognized for their bravery. Because without them and all the first responders I would not be alive."
The Shrewsbury Fire Department sent a rescue truck, engine and hovercraft to assist in the ice rescue. The Clinton Fire Department also assisted.