GRAFTON (CBS) – A father and son on a snowmobile trip nearly died on Sunday after falling through the ice of Grafton’s Lake Ripple.
Today, they’re just thankful to be alive.
“I thought that was it,” Michael Vento, 38, said. “I thought it was the end. That’s how scared I was.”
Vento and his son Colby, 10, are experienced riders, but misjudged the ice thickness on their ride just after dusk.
He knew they were in trouble when he came upon a fishing hole carved in the ice and saw water bubbling up through the hole.
“That told me I need to turn right away, ” Vento said. “But as soon as I did, the machine crashed through the ice and went under. There was no time to react.”
As the snowmobile vanished beneath them, Vento grabbed his son. Unfortunately, they were about 100 feet from shore, and a sense of helplessness and panic quickly set in.
“It’s the scariest situation you could ever be in,” he explained. “You’re trying to grab the ice and stay up, but the ice keeps breaking.”
With the Super Bowl on TV in most homes, there weren’t many neighbors around to hear Vento’s screams for help.
Fortunately, a few houses over, Roger Zalesky just happened to be in his backyard when he heard the snowmobile’s engine go silent. He knew what that could mean and went to investigate.
“There was no one around – the lights were all out,” Zalesky’s wife Jessica said. “Everybody was at Super Bowl parties. My husband couldn’t even hear them yelling until he reached the shoreline. I was the only one to call 911. Nobody else heard it.”
Police officer Dan Wenc was the first to respond.
“If [the Zalesky’s] had thought nothing of it, or didn’t know what it was, this very well could have been a completely different story,” he said.
Wenc quickly fetched a life preserver ring and rope from his cruiser’s trunk. He tossed it to Colby when two firefighters arrived to help pull him out.
“I was happy to be out,” Colby said. “But I was worried that my dad was in there.”
Rescuers had a harder time with the father, until another neighbor dragged a canoe over to help.
Numb, waterlogged, and exhausted from keeping his son afloat, the elder Vento says it was a close call.
“I couldn’t have lasted another minute out there,” he said. “I was so fatigued.”
Vento is facing a $250 daily fine for leaving his snowmobile at the lake bottom, and he returned to today in an effort to retrieve the machine.
Local police quickly put an end to the salvage effort, and offered some advice to all riders.
“No ice is safe,” Wenc said.