A retired volunteer firefighter from New Jersey and his wife are being credited with saving the lives of two men who fell through thin ice into a Wakefield pond Wednesday morning.

Wakefield Police Chief Michael Fenton said the cries for help from the pair in Charlie Fielding’s Pond were heard by Rick and Deborah Wehrhan. Deborah called 911 while Rick grabbed a ring buoy and ran towards the pond. He was able to get them out of the freezing water and back to shore where first responders treated them before hypothermia set in.

"Rick's training, background and quick thinking played a pivotal role in this successful ice water rescue," Fenton said in a statement.

Wehrhan worked for the Germainia Volunteer Fire House in Egg Harbor City.

According to the US Coast Guard, when the water temperatures are below 50 degrees, the chance of immediate incapacitation due to cold shock is extremely high. It can become difficult to control breathing after just three minutes in the water, which could lead to drowning. The act of swimming and struggling in the water can increase the rate of body cooling by 30-40%.

Temperatures have barely been below freezing, allowing a thin layer of ice to form on the surface of the small pond. Temperatures warmed up this week into the 40s.

Fenton said there should be a minimum of six inches of hard ice before walking onto the ice, according to U.S. Army Cold Regions Research & Engineering. Eight to ten inches of hard ice should develop before snow machine or all-terrain vehicles are taken on it.

Contact reporter Dan Alexander at Dan.Alexander@townsquaremedia.com or via X (Twitter) @DanAlexanderNH

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