JEFFERSON, Texas (KTAL/KMSS) – A Jefferson High School senior out for a walk in the wintry weather with her dog made a potentially life-saving discovery when she spotted a boy who had fallen through the ice of a frozen pond.
Caitlyn Thomas, 18, says she did not want to go for the walk with her dog, Kroger, because of the cold. But she’s glad she did.
“I was playing on my phone and then I look up and I see this little image in the water and I walk up to it and realize it a little boy,” Caitlyn said. “It instantly clicked in my brain like, ‘Oh my gosh, I have to help him!'”
It happened in the Berea community just outside of Jefferson early Wednesday afternoon. Caitlyn says she called out to the boy, but he could not speak.
“He wasn’t responding. He was just looking at me,” Caitlyn recalled. “It was scary.”
She says she tried banging on neighbors’ doors, but no one was answering. Knowing they needed to act fast and not sure of how to describe the location to the 911 dispatcher, Caitlyn called her grandfather, Randy Thomas, who lives a block away.
He showed up minutes later dressed only in jeans and a long-sleeve t-shirt in his rush to respond. But that didn’t stop him from jumping into the frigid water. He can be seen in the video Caitlyn captured shortly after calling 911, chest-deep in the icy water. Caitlyn says he initially tried to get the boy to grab a rope tied to her grandfather’s truck, but he couldn’t move his arms. With the help of friends and neighbors, he ultimately pulled the boy from the frozen pond. He was cold, stunned, and shoeless, but conscious.
All the while, both Kroger and the boy’s dog kept trying to dive into the water to save the boy, too.
The Marion County Sheriff’s Office said in a statement that the boy was already inside his home with his mother and warming up by the time first responders arrived. He was checked out by EMS and is expected to be okay.
“The quick thinking of the caller and the actions of the neighbor helped save the juvenile from further harm,” the statement said.
Having grown up on the property, Caitlyn says she has never seen the stocked pond frozen over. Thanks to the arctic blast that has been bringing record-breaking low temperatures to the region since Monday, it had become a snow-covered sheet of ice. Still, the ice was too thin in the middle where the boy fell through on Wednesday.
Caitlyn says she does not know how long he was out there, but it might have been for some time because enough snow had fallen to cover his tracks.
“I’m just so thankful that God sent me out on a walk in that direction because I was debating on going a different way.”
She says her grandfather is a “man of few words,” but he did say he was glad that his scuba diver rescue training kicked in. He just wished he had his wet suit on instead of jeans.
He had a little more to say on Thursday, when he spoke to KTAL NBC 6 about the rescue, telling reporter Jesse Kelly he was proud of his granddaughter for making the right call.