On the radio this week, a young man recounted a grueling experience from the Friday before. He was clearing snow and ice to make a roadway on one of Canada’s large northern lakes which freeze over in the winter somewhere near Kenora, Ontario.
The conditions were so harsh and tough that the plough attached to his truck broke off. So he abandoned the truck on the ice and came back the next day on a 9000-pound bobcat. The ice, he assumed, was 12 to 14 inches thick and therefore, safe. However, with global warming and the melting of the polar icecaps this is no longer a given. Alas, in one spot it was just 7 inches and seeing through his window, the water rise, he knew he had broken through the ice. He could not open his door so he used his elbow to break open a glass and somehow got out only to hit the bottom of the lake through the hole on the frozen lake. At the bottom, it was eerily quiet and pitch black. He did not panic. He remembered his grandfather telling him once that if he fell through he should look for colour which could represent a hole through the menacing ice. Unrelentingly he powerfully swam vertically through the darkness and halfway up saw something yellow, and moved towards it. Fortunately, it was an opening and he made his way out. Meanwhile, he had no jacket, just a sweatshirt, ski pants, and boots on and it was -30C. Fortuitously, he had taken off his jacket when he fell through. He made his way to the road and no cars stopped. He understood he says because he is six feet three and must have looked menacing without a cap or coat under those conditions. But some of the drivers of those cars had called out to the authorities for help.
When he finally made it home, he had a hot shower and did paperwork. Next day, his father checked the depth of the lake through the hole he had fallen and just shrugged his disbelief. 105 feet – 10 floors! He would not have made it, he says, if it had been 120 feet. He had been 30 seconds away from death. He was asked “How did you get through the ordeal? Did you not panic?” His response, “There was no time to think or to panic.” And when asked if he was afraid this could happen again? He said, he had a job to do and this came with the territory!
Meanwhile, he has lost part of one ear due to frostbite and also blown one ear drum. But he only saw a doctor a few days later, and was back on the ice doing his job the following Monday – business as usual!
Life lesson: Don’t think, do!
Latha Sukumar, Executive Director | Toronto, Ontario | March 22, 2017