WORCESTER — Two men who plunged through the ice while playing hockey on a lake in Worcester yesterday were pulled to safety thanks to a quick-thinking medical student who raced to their aid in a borrowed kayak and firefighters who put their own lives on the line.
John Barber, a 29-year-old UMass medical student, said he was sitting in his Lake Avenue apartment a little after 2 p.m. when the sound of two men calling out for help brought him to his feet.
When he looked out the window and spotted two middle-aged men desperately clinging to the edge of a hole in the ice on Lake Quinsigamond, he sprang into action and ran out onto the frozen, fractured surface.
“I came out, grabbed the kayak and some rope,” Barber said.
“It just seemed like something that I could do.”
After sliding the kayak into the hole to keep the men afloat, Barber said he went back to shore to get a pair of ice-gripping shoes.
“I got some Microspikes and went back out again,” Barber said. “By that point my neighbor came out as well, and a fireman showed up.”
Steven Power, 47, who also lives on the lake, said he looked on in amazement as Barber “literally helped save those guys’ lives.”
“We called the police and everyone to help; in the meantime this guy grabbed a kayak,” Power said.
“He took a risk. … He just walked out there. Thank God. They were out there for a good 10 minutes. If he hadn’t gone out there, they probably would have gone under.”
By the time Worcester firefighters in scuba gear arrived and helped drag the two men to shore, Power said it was clear their time in the water had taken its toll.
“They looked like they were in shock,” he said.
The men, whose names were not released last night, were taken by ambulance to nearby UMass Medical Center to be evaluated but were expected to be OK.
“They looked to be pretty darn cold but I think they’re going to be fine,” Worcester Deputy Fire Chief John Sullivan told reporters at the scene.
As for Barber, he was just happy that he was able to help out, saying, “I got a little bit of excitement on a Saturday morning.”