ST GEORGE, Utah — A Washington County Sheriff's deputy punched through the ice and dove into a frozen pond to rescue a drowning 8-year-old boy on Christmas Day.
A day later, saying his thoughts were still with the hospitalized boy and his family, Sgt. Aaron Thompson played down any heroism on his part, saying he had dived into the icy water knowing there was no other way the boy might survive.
"I knew what I was getting into," the veteran deputy and former search and rescue dive team member said. "I knew how cold that water was going to be."
The boy was chasing his dog Monday evening in the small community of New Harmony, about 30 miles north of St. George, when another child saw him fall through the ice. Unable to help, the other child ran inside to tell family members, who then reported the incident shortly after 5 p.m. local time.
Thompson arrived on scene and heard from another person on scene that she had seen the boy's hand just minutes earlier, he said. So he stripped off his police gear and used his hands and forearms to batter his way into the ice, eventually wading in up to his neck about 25 feet from the shoreline before locating the child and lifting him out of the water.
"Once I saw his face I just pulled his head up above the water," Thompson said.
The boy had been in the water for about 30 minutes, but the frigid temperatures — the water was 37 degrees — actually meant that there was a chance he could still survive, Thompson said.
As of late Tuesday, the boy's condition had not been released.
Thompson was also hospitalized and treated for symptoms of hypothermia, as well as cuts and abrasions sustained while breaking through the ice.
Sheriff Cory Pulsipher called Thompson a hero.
"A lot of people would probably like to think they would have dived in too, but how many actually would have?" he said. "He hates having the spotlight on him, but he's a hero."
Thompson said his dive team experience proved invaluable, crediting the sheriff's office for maintaining a culture where many deputies train in their personal time to equip themselves with skills that can be used on the job.