Anchorage man safe after fall through ice

Kyle Hopkins
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News

Andrew Weare had walked on frozen University Lake just the day before. The ice seemed strong enough. Now he wanted a closer look at what appeared from shore to be a beaver encased in ice.

Satisfied that it was, in fact, a beaver in the ice, he started the short walk back to shore and the trail that surrounds the popular dog park.

You know what happens next. Woosh!

Weare, 62, crashed through the thawing ice, and was suddenly submerged in water. There were no creaks or cracks to warn him of the plunge. His feet never did touch the bottom, he said.

It was shortly after 10 a.m. Monday, near the narrow waist of the lake.

"I kept going under water and I stretched my arms up knowing the hole would be around there somewhere. I drew and drew and then I got to the top," said Weare, a bald, goateed transplant from Wales, United Kingdom. He pawed his hands in wide swimming motions to demonstrate.

Weare was kicking his feet as the undertow threatened to tug him beneath the ice, he said.

A counselor's assistant at the Clitheroe Center in Anchorage, Weare credits years of martial arts lessons and multiple black belts -- "I'm a trained karate man," he said -- with helping him act quickly in the freezing water.

His 2-year-old husky, Sable, watched franticly from the shore, running figure eights. There would be no Rin Tin Tin rescues. Instead Weare hollered for help, knowing that dog park regular Eric Nordhougen, 33, and his schnauzer were nearby. Another dog walker, whom police did not identify, came to help, too.

Weare saw Nordhougen break a long, thin branch off a tree. Probably beaver-chewed, he said. The two rescuers, staying low as they came out on the ice, extended branches to him.

"I had two big chunks of tree slide my way," Weare said.

Eventually the men pulled him to safety.

"They're good strong guys, so out of the water I came," he said.

Police used the rescue Monday as a cautionary tale: Anchorage is getting warm. Time to stop skating and walking on ponds.

Weare saw paramedics as soon as he reached shore. He can't remember what happened after that.

He was incoherent, according to police. Confused and unable to describe what happened. Police said he was severely hypothermic.

The next thing he recalls is being treated at Providence hospital. There was blood on his glasses, he said. "They reckon I hit my head on something."

As Weare was rushed to the hospital, Sable was taken to the animal shelter -- the husky mix was originally a pound puppy -- where Weare's wife picked her up. The dog stretched out at Weare's feet as he retold the story at the couple's home Monday afternoon.

Weare rubbed Sable's belly. She loves the dog park, he said.

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