Four Grayslake children who fell through a frozen pond late Thursday afternoon are alive and well, thanks in part to a man who bashed his way through the ice to pull one of the boys out.
Robert George, 40, was working on his computer at about 4:30 p.m. when his daughters came rushing in telling him they heard screams coming from the pond.
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"I just ran across the street," he said Thursday night. "I didn't have shoes or a coat or anything on."
One of the children was out of the pond, in a neighborhood near Route 45 and Washington Street, and two children were fairly close to shore, but the fourth child was about 25 feet from land, George said.
A woman from the neighborhood had a rope and pulled the two children near the shore out, but the line could not reach the last boy.
George quickly tied the rope around his waist and headed straight into the water, which he said instantly sent a shock through his body.
"I just heard him screaming and I was like, I have three kids of my own, and just couldn't stop," George said.
The man crawled up onto the thin layer of ice, about an inch and a half thick was his guess, but it would not hold him. George had to smash the ice as he waded on.
No one is exactly sure how long the a 16-year-old boy, 12-year-old girl and two 9-year-old boys were in the water.
"They were all up to their chest or chins holding onto the ice shelf," said Grayslake Fire Department Batallion Chief Jon Cokefair. "It doesn't take much -- your muscles start to lock up."
It could take as little as two minutes for hypothermia to set in, he said.
"I was afraid he was going to go under before I got there," George said. "I don't think I could sit there and watch a child die like that. I just kept going."
The boy reached out with a stick to George and climbed on his back as people on shore pulled the two in with the rope.
"He kept apologizing and saying he was never going to do it again," George said.
As the two reached the shore, police had just arrived and an ambulance was pulling up.
Luckily none of the four children were seriously injured, and all were treated at the scene and warmed up by the time paramedics left, fire officials said.
"Lucky kids," Cokefair said. "A little angel for those kids."