SPIRIT LAKE—A cry for help mobilized two cousins from Sibley to take quick action to save a man’s life in the Triboji Beach area on West Okoboji Lake.
Sixteen-year-old Riley Rockman and his 15-year-old cousin, Gannon Rockman, rescued a man who had fallen into the lake near where the teenagers had been ice fishing about 3 p.m. Friday, Dec. 27.
Riley said he and Gannon had been setting up their ice fishing spot and drilling holes when the man had come up to talk to them briefly about fishing tips. Minutes later, the boys heard him cry out for help after he had fallen into the water.
“I got on the ice, Gannon was on the shore. He called our grandparents, and then I went out and I walked out on the ice. I got on my knees when I was near him, and then I reached out and I pulled him up onto the ice,” Riley said.
The man, who remains anonymous, had been walking his two cats in a stroller when he fell through the ice. Riley retrieved the stroller and two animals out of the water. One of the cats died from the incident while the other survived.
After Riley got the man to shore, Gannon arrived with blankets and set up an ice heater. Gannon then called 911, and an ambulance arrived later to take the man to Lakes Regional Healthcare in Spirit Lake.
“We had so much adrenaline that we weren’t even thinking about our safety at first,” Gannon said.
“What we were thinking of was getting the guy out of the water that way he’s safe and then pretty much just taking it step by step.”
Riley said he had been panicked at first from the situation but was able to calm down and think about the best course of action to help the man.
“I was thinking like, ‘OK, so what can I do best?’ We need to get him warm, we need to get him on shore, we need to contact the ambulance, we need to get other people on site and we need to help him,” he said.
Riley said the man’s elbow had been bleeding, but he did not see any other visible injuries.
The cousins have been going ice fishing on the lake for the past several years, but neither had experienced a situation where someone fell through the frozen surface.
“We heard about incidents like this happening but never really experienced it firsthand,” Riley said. “Especially going out and helping them out of the ice, like out of the water.”
Gannon credited his father, Daren Rockman, who works for Osceola County Conservation, with teaching him and Riley how to respond in an emergency situation on the ice.
“You never know what’s going to happen,” Gannon said. “All you can do is make sure that I know the safety rules and what to do when this stuff happens.”
The cousins said the incident will not deter them from continuing to ice fish, but they will be more cautious in the future.
Members of the Iowa Department of Natural Resources in Spirit Lake also responded to the incident as did deputy Scott Gries from the Dickinson County Sheriff’s Office.
Neither Gries or the DNR employees could be reached for comment.