Hicks family heroic in ice rescue
|By Lisa Gervais - Editor | February 8, 2018|
The Hicks family is being credited with saving the lives of four people whose side-by-side plunged through Boshkung Lake Friday night.
Bill Hicks, his son Spencer Hicks and daughter Brittany Hicks were all involved in the rescue about 9:30 p.m. Feb. 2. Bill, who’s acting district fire chief in Toronto, was quick to praise Spencer, telling The Highlander this week that his 21-year-old son “saved those guys’ lives ... 100 per cent. He’s the one who should get all the credit.”
The Hicks’s live on a point adjacent to Boshkung Lake in Algonquin Highlands. Spencer says he was just hanging out in his room downstairs when he heard a sideby-side go down their boat ramp and onto the lake. He looked out his window and saw the vehicle turning the corner to go towards Buttermilk Falls.
“I’ve lived here my whole life and I know not to go over there because it’s all open water,” he told The Highlander this week. He ran upstairs and onto the deck. “I could hear them driving around. But all of a sudden I heard them go through ... like all the ice broke. One minute they were just driving and all of a sudden they went under.”
He yelled at his dad, telling him what had happened. They grabbed a rope and flashlight from the garage and headed out onto the lake. Meanwhile, Brittany called 911. By the time the Hicks’s got to the spot where the side-by-side had gone in, the driver and three passengers had pulled themselves onto the ice.
“They were crawling around and my dad just started yelling at them, telling them what to do, to stay on their stomachs and crawl towards the light,” Spencer said.
The first two people reached them and Spencer walked them to shore. Two others, who had been further back, were then coached towards Bill Hicks and he and his daughter walked them to safety. The four were checked by EMS, cleared of injury, and returned to the resort they were staying at. Told his father had singled him out for his efforts, Spencer said, “it feels good, I guess. They wouldn’t have known where to go. They could have just frozen out there. I was definitely really scared because I knew if we didn’t get out there in time ... we only had seconds, minutes.”
He knows what he’s talking about, as does Bill, who put his own snowmobile through the ice in front on their house last winter. Bill said “you’ve basically got minutes or you’re gone. In three to four minutes you’re done. That would be a terrible way to die.” Bill said he couldn’t be prouder of his son, and shared that Spencer was now considering becoming a volunteer firefighter.
“Yeah, I was thinking about that for awhile now and after this happened it just opened up my eyes ... I’m definitely going to try to pursue that,” Spencer said. Bill said “Bruce (his brother) has one boy on the fire department. I’d like to have one too.”
Spencer’s uncle, Bruce Hicks, was recently awarded a Medal of Bravery by the Governor General of Canada. Local OPP said that on Feb. 2, about 9:20 p.m., EMS were called to a side-by-side gong through on Boshkung Lake. They said all four men were able to make their way safely to shore and that the driver was suspected of having been drinking. A threeday driver’s licence suspension was served following a warn range result at a road side test.
Algonquin Highlands fire Chief Mike Cavanagh said this week, “we responded to an ATV and people in the water on Boshkung Lake, upon our arrival all ATV riders were out of the water and we provided first aid until EMS arrived. “We would just remind everyone to know the ice conditions before heading out on the lake and if you don’t know, don’t go.”
Earlier in the day, around 4:45 p.m., EMS responsed to a call about a snowmobile and ATV travelling together and going through the ice on Twelve Mile Lake. Four men were taken to local hospital by paramedics for precautionary reasons. OPP said three of the four males were able to pull themselves out of the water while a bystander threw a rope to the fourth male and was able to pull him out of the water.
LISA GERVAIS is the editor for The Highlander.