LITTLE CANADA, Minn. - Three boys were rescued Saturday morning after falling through ice covering a watershed drainage retention pond in Little Canada.
The boys crawled under a fence that separates their neighborhood from the pond, just east of Interstate 35-E, and ventured onto the ice. After one of the boys crashed through the ice, the other two fell in trying to save him.
"My five-year-old son, James, came running up yelling 'my brothers are drowning'!" James Miller told KARE.
Miller, who had been walking his dog at the time, dropped the leash and scaled the eight-foot fence to get to the pond. He saw his stepsons, 11-year-old Krystian Andert and 10-year-old X'Avier Andert, in the icy water.
"They were more freaked out about their friend, Keanu," Miller recalled, "They were yelling out, 'Help Keanu! It's Keanu!"
When Miller stepped onto the ice his foot went through, so he dropped to his belly and slid across the pond, following the boys' tracks in the snow.
He saw the eight-year-old neighbor boy, Keanu, go under the water and come back up gasping for air.
"I saw him going down and I just freaked out. I'm sitting there thinking I'm going to watch my kid's best friend die!" Miller recalled.
"I said, to myself, No! I lunged for him, and the ice cracked all around me, I dropped in. I reached into the deep murky water just to see where he was going and I grabbed him. And I threw him up as high as I could to get him out of the water."
By then Krystian had managed to pull himself back onto the ice, but Miller saw that the 10-year-old, X'Avier was struggling and beginning to panic. Miller slid over to the boy and pulled him onto a solid piece of ice.
"I said just stay low and go to mom, keep moving until you reach mom."
He then turned his attention back to Keanu, who was yelling because he couldn't move his arms and legs.
"I grabbed his sleeve, and I just dragged him. The ice was cracking all the way back," Miller explained.
"And I'm freezing. My legs are just killing me, as if I have no strength. I'm thinking at every point I'm like, I'm going down with this kid."
Neighbors, who had heard the commotion, opened the gate and helped Miller carry Keanu into the his home.
By then several Ramsey County Sheriff's Office deputies and Ramsey County Water Patrol officers had arrived, as well as Little Canada Fire Department volunteers.
"Our squads basically helped render first aid and treatment to them." Sgt. Jim Dunlap told KARE.
"There were two boys laying on the ground and one was in the house, and the father was standing there. They were all shivering, and the younger one who went under the water was more incoherent than the rest."
Dunlap said it serves as a fresh reminder that the ice isn't ready yet for support people, especially given recent swings of moderate weather.
"It's much like last winter. Until things change it's going to be the same warning as last year; stay off the ice!"
Miller and all three boys were taken by ambulance to Regions Hospital in St. Paul to be treated for hypothermia. Miller said he and his stepsons were released by early afternoon, but he expected the neighbor boy Keanu to be kept overnight.
"He's going to be okay. He already looks like himself again. His color came back."
The boy owes his life, in part, to sheer happenstance. James Miller had planned to leave ten minutes earlier, to pick up his grandmother at the airport. But, because he got a late start Saturday morning, he was still outside his home when the boys fell through the ice.
Read more about ice safety tips at the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources ice safety page online.
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