AUBURN — With no formal training, an ice fisherman breathed life back into a friend who had collapsed on Taylor Pond on Saturday afternoon.

Gary Croteau, 59, of Auburn was drilling his eighth hole through the ice with his friend, Larry, whose grandchildren were expected to join them later.

Croteau, who has a small shack on the pond, had invited Larry, 77, and his family for an afternoon of ice fishing. 

“We were just enjoying the day,” said Croteau, did not want to give Larry’s last name.

As Croteau and Larry were steadying the power augur for the last hole, Larry began to slump, pulling the augur with him, Croteau said Monday during a phone interview.

Larry fell onto the ice, his breathing labored. He took one last, long inhale, then stopped breathing.


Croteau knelt beside him. He thought for a moment, then began administering CPR, alternating chest compressions with breaths.

“On the fifth time when I was blowing, and backed off, he choked and he coughed with a big choke and took a deep breath and started breathing on his own,” Croteau said.

Minutes later, paramedics appeared and rushed Larry to Central Maine Medical Center in Lewiston. A man on shore watched the drama unfold and answered Croteau’s calls for help and dialed 911.

Croteau said he’s since heard that his friend’s condition has improved.

“I know he’s well,” Croteau said. “He’s all good.”

Doctors are running tests to determine what caused his collapse, Croteau said.


Croteau, who has ice fished on Taylor Pond every weekend of every winter, said he was never formally trained in how to perform the life-saving measure he administered successfully to his friend.

“It was a little shocking for me,” he said. “I’ve seen CPR done on TV. I paid attention to it and it actually worked. So, I mean, I took my time. And everything went fine.”

It had been a good day for fishing. Croteau caught a few northern pike, he said.

But knowing his friend would be OK made it even better.

“It’s a good feeling knowing something turned out good,” he said.

Gary Croteau

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