From the pages of
Pinedale Roundup
Volume 106, Number 12 - March 19, 2009
brought to you online by Pinedale Online

Jeff Ellis stands by the pond where he saved a little boy last week.
Teacher rescues boy from pond

by Mari Muzzi

A Pinedale resident rescued a young boy from an icy pond Wednesday afternoon.

“I had seen that he had fallen through the ice, so I ran over as fast as I could,” said Learning Center substitute preschool teacher Jeff Ellis. “The water was so cold the child couldn’t speak and certainly couldn’t scream for help.”

Ellis and two other teachers, Carol Beck and Codi Cramer, had been at the Town Park on Franklin Avenue with their students when they noticed that a 5-year-old boy had fallen into the partly frozen fishing pond.

The 5-year-old, who was not a student from the Learning Center, had been at the park with his father.

Ellis said the father had been watching the boy from inside a truck nearby.

The Learning Center staff frequently takes their kids to the Town Park to play, he said.

“We had gathered our kids up to bring them back (to the Learning Center) and as we were walking back up Carol asked, ‘Do you guys see that boy around?’” Ellis said.

The three staff members had been watching the boy, who had told their students that he was 5 years old.

“We were concerned when we didn’t see him, because we had seen him running around,” Cramer said.

At that point, they had already rounded their kids up and were heading back to the Learning Center.

“As you come up the street (from the park to the Learning Center), there is a little bit of a rise and we have our kids hold on to a rope so we can keep them all together,” Beck said.

At first, staff members thought that the little boy was lying down in the snow and that was why they couldn’t spot him.

“We kept watching (the little boy) because that’s what we’re trained to do — we do it with our own kids,” Beck said. “I stood on my tiptoes and didn’t see him, then I saw his head bobbing (in the pond).”

She told Ellis that the boy had fallen into the water and the substitute preschool teacher didn’t hesitate to save the child.

“He didn’t say “well gee, should I go in,’ he just took off,” Beck said.

Ellis rushed out on the ice, grabbed the boy by the collar and hauled him out of the water.

“I saw him go under and he bobbed up by the time I started running over,” he said. “By the time I got there he was hanging on an edge of ice — he couldn’t say anything, the water was so cold it just took his breath away.”

Ellis said it was about 2:30 p.m. on Wednesday when the child slipped into the pond and the temperature outside was about 10 degrees.

After pulling the boy from the freezing water, Ellis carried him to his father’s truck, where the father then removed the child’s wet clothing and began to warm the boy up inside the truck.

“I had a tough time not twisting out on (the father), because if we hadn’t been there, I’m sure the kid would have died,” Ellis said.

He said the boy’s father had been near his parked truck at the time and hadn’t see his son tumble into the icy water.

“His father had no idea what was going on, and I was thinking, ‘you need to watch your kid,’” Ellis said. “I hope and pray that he’s ok — he was blue in the face and obviously extremely cold.”

Beck went back to check on the boy inside his father’s truck, and the child was sitting up and his skin was no longer a bluish coloration, she said.

She said she tried to get the father’s license plate, but was unable it make it out.

The Learning Center staff filed a police report and Beck said the sheriff’s department is looking into the incident to check up on the child and make sure he is ok after his fall in the pond.

According to the sheriff, Ellis’s quick reaction saved the child’s life.

“He wasn’t in the water very long, we’re guessing less than a minute,” Cramer said.

It doesn’t take long in these cold temperatures for hyperthermia to set in and if they have not been present the outcome for the boy could have been deadly.

“Like the officer said, the best thing was that the little boy’s life was saved,” Beck said. “Thank goodness, Jeff was wearing tennis shoes and got to him and pulled the boy out.”

Later that day, one of the teachers told the preschoolers that they were lucky to have a hero for a teacher, Ellis said with a laugh.

“I’m the only guy working here, so I’m kind of like a Jungle Gym for the kids,” he said. “I don’t think our kids understood the seriousness of it all: we don’t let them cross the road and they stay on the park side (away from the pond).”

Staff members said they hope the father took the child to the clinic and that the boy is doing well.

This incident needs to heighten awareness in the community and cause parents to be more mindful of the pond at the park, Beck said.

“Anyone who has kids knows you can turn your back for a second and they take off,” said education director of Sublette County Learning Centers Martha Ptasnik. “It’s nice to know that our staff responds so quickly to an emergency, even though the child was not under our supervision.”

She said Ellis could have fallen into the pond as well.

“But, he didn’t even think about that, instead he went to save the child,” Ptasnik said.

Ellis recommends that some picture signs be used near the pond to warn young children.

“A 5-year-old can’t read the signs,” he said. “I think in the winter and spring, they should also have some kind of fencing around the pond.”

Photo credits:  Mari Muzzi

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