Man pulled from frigid Waukesha County pond tells of experience
Keller Russell & WTMJ News Team
Keller Russell reportsPhoto: Video by tmj4.com
HARTLAND - He was pulled from a frigid Waukesha County pond after falling through the ice.
But, as the man now describes his harrowing ordeal - there are concerns about that rescue.
"Just hold onto him. All we need is someone to hold on to him."
They were words captured on camera during the dramatic rescue.
One David Holtz admits, he could have avoided.
"It was a big mistake on my part."
Dive crews pulled Holtz from chilly water after he fell through the ice on a pond outside his apartment complex in Hartland.
He had been fishing that, despite his better judgment.
"It was like walking on oatmeal."
But, because he drilled through about six inches of the mushy ice himself, Holtz thought he was fine.
He fishes on the pond every day.
"I was already out there walking back and forth and I followed the same footsteps that I made when I went out there."
Holtz said there wasn't time to think, no advance warning he was about to take a plunge.
"I looked up and I seen blue sky and bubbles."
He knew he was in trouble. He doesn't know how to swim.
"I had a heavy jacket on, long pants and heavy boots."
His wife, Stephanie, is glad he's alive. But, she insists the Hartland Fire Department wasn't prepared for such a rescue.
"It's like they couldn't get 70 feet out and figure out what to do. They were just like confused and I'd never seen that in a rescue crew," said Stephanie.
Lt. Peter Walker with the Hartland Fire Department says that's simply not true.
"Our initial arriving units carried disks and throw ropes to try and get out to the patient," said Walker.
But at 75 feet from shore, Walker said David was too far for the weighted ropes to make it. And, even if they could get him a rope, they wouldn't have been able to get him out without the dive team.
"We couldn't just pull him in because he was just getting pulled against the ice shelf that was in front of him."
Stephanie also thinks it took way to long to get her husband to safety. Her neighbors agreed.
"A regular crew that is equipped should have had him out of there within 15 minutes of arrival."
Stephanie claims her husband tread water for 45 minutes but the Hartland Fire Department says that's not true.
Despite the fact the department doesn't have its own dive team, and called Delafield for help, they say David was out of the water fairly quickly.
The first crews arrived about four minutes after they were paged. And, from there, they had David out of the water within 20 minutes, according to call logs.
"I know it seems like a long time when you have someone out there and it seems like a long time for us too. But it was only 20 minutes," said Walker.
Stephanie hopes this all leads the Village of Hartland to fund more training and special equipment for the fire department for future rescues.
Meanwhile, David hopes his story is a lesson for others.
"It's not worth it. Any price ain't worth risking your life like that."