St Albans man praises lake rescuers

A ST Albans man, who fell into a frozen lake while trying to rescue his dog, has praised the emergency services and a passing couple who helped to save him.

Gerald Quinlan and his West Highland White Terrier Charlie had a lucky escape when they both fell into the lake at Verulamium Park on Friday afternoon.

Mr Quinlan, of De Tany Court, had been out walking Charlie with his wife Charlotte and was just about to set off home when the nightmare unfolded.

He said: “There was a coot on the ice and Charlie just ran off after it. We were calling for her to come back, as we could see it wasn’t safe.

“The coot went on to the island and when Charlie was about five feet away from it, the ice just gave way, it was quite shocking.”

Mr Quinlan rushed out onto the lake to rescue his beloved pet, who was desperately gripping onto the side of the broken ice. But he ended up plunging into the frozen water himself.

“I knew that I would fall through, but I also knew that the lake wasn’t that deep and my main concern was to get the dog out,” he continued.

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“As I fell in, the bit of ice Charlie was holding onto broke off and she went under the water. Luckily, I managed to grab her harness and pull her out onto the island before pulling myself out.”

Eye witness Baron Brunton was out walking his dogs with his partner Errol when he saw the drama unfold.

He said: “I saw the dog suddenly shoot off from its owners and run across the ice.

“I just kept thinking to myself please don’t fall through, but it did and went right under the water.

“Then I saw the man go out onto the ice and as he was getting near to the island he fell through too.”

Quick-thinking Mr Brunton ran over and immediately called 999 while Mr Quinlan’s wife kept checking if he was alright until fire crews arrived.

Officer in charge, Greg Duke, from St Albans Fire Station, said: “On arrival we assessed the situation to check that the man was okay. We were then assisted by a rescue team from Hatfield, who used inflatable paths to reach the man.”

Once Mr Quinlan had been bought back to safety he was assessed by paramedics from Hemel Hempstead but did not require hospital treatment.

Charlie was later checked over by vets and has quickly made a full recovery.

Reflecting on the experience, Mr Quinlan said: “It just goes to show what can happen when you least expect it. It’s fate really; if she hadn’t seen that bird then none of this would have happened.”

He added: “I’d like to thank the emergency services for their swift and professional response and also Baron and Errol for all their help.” Following the incident, Hertfordshire Fire and Rescue service has reiterated its warning to residents that frozen water is not safe and children and adults should keep off it at all times.

Owners should either avoid walking their pets near frozen water or make sure dogs are kept on leads.