WARREN — A Knox County Sheriff sergeant is being hailed as a hero after jumping into icy Crawford Pond Saturday night to rescue a man who had fallen through the ice.

Sgt. Arthur Smith Knox County Sheriff’s Office

“I am extremely proud of Sgt. (Arthur) Smith’s dedication to serving the people of Knox County and true heroism while putting his own life in danger,” Sheriff Tim Carroll said Sunday morning.

“Two men are alive today due to the actions of Sgt. Davis and the other first responders,” the sheriff said.

Two men had fallen through the ice. The two men were Craig Dennison, 38, of Warren and Donald Holbrook, 28, of Warren. Holbrook was initially listed Sunday in critical condition and transferred to Maine Medical Center in Portland. His condition had improved by Sunday afternoon.

Dennison was initially hospitalized at Pen Bay Medical Center in Rockport but was released Sunday and is at home.

The two men were on a side-by-side all-terrain vehicle owned and operated by Dennison when it went through the ice about 100 yards from shore.

Knox County Regional Communications Center notified Knox County Sheriff’s Office deputies at 9:45 p.m. Feb. 1 that people living around the pond were hearing someone screaming for help on Crawford Pond in Warren. As Sgt. Smith and Deputy Timothy Davis were responding, dispatch notified them that two men were in the water.

Sheriff Carroll said that Smith arrived 10 minutes after the first call was received.

Upon arrival, Sgt. Smith grabbed his throw rope and went out on the ice to where he could see open water. As he got closer he could see two men obviously having a hard time staying afloat. Sgt. Smith stated that one was having a harder time than the other.

Sgt. Smith threw the rope to the one who seemed to be having the most difficulty first. That man was unable to get the rope around his torso in order to pull him out. The other man in the water attempted to assist him, but had to clear himself for his own safety. That man was able to be pulled from the water.

Sgt. Smith could see that the remaining man was having severe distress and was unable to hold onto the rope or the edge of the ice. Sgt. Smith observed him going under water and made the decision to go in the water to save him.

At a Sunday afternoon news conference at the Sheriff’s Office in Rockland, Sgt. Smith said he removed his duty belt and ballistic vest and went in the water. He attempted to get the rope around him that was being held by others on solid ice.

The sheriff pointed out that a common problem in ice rescues is the victim’s sense of danger is imminent and panic sets in and it becomes more difficult to help someone. Sgt. Smith was attempting many ways to save the man in distress.

At one point the ice broke free from what Sgt. Smith was also holding onto. Sgt. Smith was able to keep composure and still hold the victim from submersing. Sgt. Smith was fighting to keep them both afloat at this time. He was able to get to more solid ice again and hold the victim.

Sgt. Smith was holding the ice by his arms and able to maintain keeping the victims head above water with his legs. After several minutes of keeping the victim afloat while in the freezing cold water, emergency medical technician Kevin Curry joined Sgt. Smith at the edge of the ice to help. Together they were still unable to control the victim enough to get him out of the water. A rescue swimmer from Union Fire and Rescue arrived with a life-saving wet suit and jumped in to assist. The three of them were then able to be pulled onto the ice by other first responders.

Both victims were immediately taken to Pen Bay Medical Center in Rockport. Sgt. Smith was later checked and cleared at the hospital as a precautionary measure.

Sgt. Smith said he had received basic emergency medical technician training as well as firefighting training years ago when he worked for the Rockport Police Deparment. That included cold water rescue training.He said he was also a strong swimmer.

The officer said he never thought twice about going in the water for two men he had never met and said he did not even feel the cold when he went in. He said he realized how cold he was when he got out of the water.

He estimated he was in the water for 10 to 15 minutes.

The officer said after being debriefed following the rescue, the one thing he would have done differently would have been to tie the rescue line to himself. The line has not fastened to him but he had held on to it by wrapping it around his hand.

Assisting the Sheriff’s Office at the scene was Maine State Police Corporal Jeremiah Wesbrock, Maine Warden Service Sgt. Cross and Warden Dyer, as well as members of Warren Fire and Ambulance and Union Fire and EMS. All agencies were a coordinated effort by the Knox County Regional Communications Center.

“Ice conditions along the coast are hazardous in some areas. With the warmer weather, some areas that are normally frozen this time of year may not be. Please be sure to check the thickness of the ice before heading out,” said Sgt. Aaron Cross of the Maine Warden Service.

Cross attended the news conference and said the ATV will be recovered from the pond. The two men who fell through the ice had been fishing on the pond earlier in the day.

The investigation into the accident is being handled by the Maine Warden Service.

The sergeant joined the Knox department in 2013. Before that he worked for the Waldo County Sheriff’s Office, Camden and earlier Rockport.

Comments are not available on this story.

filed under: