A New York State Trooper and a pedestrian are both okay after falling through thin ice on Oneida Lake Thursday afternoon.
Albert Merola tells CNY Central's Caitlin Nuclo he was walking his dog just before 2:00 p.m. off of Beach Road in Cicero when he decided to venture out onto the icy lake to take pictures. He said there were several people ice fishing on the lake, so he figured it was safe.
Troopers said Merola and his dog were about 250 feet from land when the ice cracked and they plunged into frigid waters between 10 and 12 feet deep.
"It's enough that you lose composure. You need to stay calm and wait for help," said Merola. "You're not getting out alone."
According to a State Police report, Trooper Ron Morse arrived on the scene, grabbed a rope from his patrol car, and headed out to help Merola. When Morse reached Merola he was joined by two ice fisherman, 31-year-old Eric Wilsey of Fulton and 34-year-old Alan Waldron of Phoenix. Wilsey and Waldron had reportedly been trying unsuccessfully to reach Merola with a flag pole.
Police say Morse tied the rope around his waist and told the fishermen to hold the rope while he attempted to rescue Merola and his dog from the frigid water. Morse first encountered the dog, which was blocking him from getting to Merola. Morse was able to get the dog out of the water, but after repeated attempts to reach Merola the ice gave way and caused Morse to fall into the water.
Wilsey and Waldron were able to pull Trooper Morse out of the water using the rope. Another fisherman, 35-year-old James Parkhurst of Oswego, was eventually able to throw a life jacket to Merola. He was then pulled to safety.
We're told Morse is a 22 year police veteran based out of the North Syracuse barracks.
Officials are warning you not to go out onto the lake. Since we've had such a mild winter, the ice is thin and dangerous. Having to go out onto the lake for rescues puts emergency workers in danger too.
"People can't seem to stay off the ice even when we tell them to," said Bridgeport Fire Chief Frank Thompson Jr. "It's unsafe, it's been unsafe for a couple days now. Thats the tricky thing about ice - it looks safe, but it's probably not. The ice isn't as thick as it normally is this time of year."
This is the second ice rescue in as many days on Oneida Lake. On Wednesday, a group of adults and children had to be rescued from a drifting slab of ice that had broken off from the shoreline near Bridgeport.