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Man falls through ice on Cocheco River

DOVER, N.H. — A 911 call is being credited with saving a man’s life Friday after he fell into an icy river.

Senior citizens in a high-rise spotted the man’s head peaking out of a hole in the ice on the Cocheco River, called 911, and the victim was pulled to safety minutes later.

Rescuers said the man was trying to walk across the river Friday afternoon and thought it was frozen solid.

“Residents of a nearby elderly housing complex looked out their back window and saw this guy neck deep in the water, through a hole in the ice, basically with his arms out, trying to hold himself up (and) calling for help,” Dover Police Department Capt. Paul Haas said.

Dover police arrived first. They tried to help the victim from a footbridge.

“They were able to lower a rope down from the footbridge, about 40 feet down, where the gentleman was through the ice and actually get him to secure the rope around his body, so he was hanging onto that when we got there,” Haas said.

Dover firefighters, who just held ice rescue training two weeks ago, suited up to go in, including firefighter Craig Comeau. The rescue workers also fell through the ice.

“I told him my name, I got his name, and I just let him know that I was there, and I was going to grab a hold of him, and the suit would hold us up, and we weren’t going to sink. We were going to get him out of the water,” Comeau said.

Rescuers dragged the man safely to shore. He was hypothermic but stabilized at the hospital.

Rescue workers said they remember hearing applause coming from the senior citizens who called 911.

“Someone falls through the ice, you don’t have a lot of time, so he certainly, probably, had someone looking over his shoulder,” Haas said.