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February 20, 2007
DISASTER AND ACCIDENT
Man rescuing dog needs rescuing himself
QUINCY, California (STPNS) -- Danny Fee of Loyalton began February with a serious dunking in the Feather River near Beckwourth on A23 off of Highway 70.
Fee and Sue Burnam were walking their dog along the river when the dog broke through the ice. Fee went out to save him and, in the process, went through the ice himself.
Burnam went to flag someone down on A23, and Tim Driscoll of Calpine responded to her distress. By this time, another man, who spoke no English, had also appeared. Still another person called the sheriff on a cell phone.
Lacking any means of reaching Fee, who by now had been in the water for 15 minutes, the bystanders on shore watched helplessly as he struggled to keep his grip on the ice.
Fortunately, Driscoll had wooden poles and a rope in his vehicle. He tied the rope around himself and slid across the ice on his belly.
In the ensuing events, Deputy Ron Womack of the Plumas County Sheriff's Office also arrived and was able to coordinate the helpers on shore.
Finally, Driscoll could reach the freezing Fee with the pole, but Fee was no longer strong enough to pull himself out - he could barely hold on.
Driscoll inched closer and was joined by the dog which had precipitated these events and which continued to run onto the ice. The combined weight of dog and man was too much for the thin ice - which cracked and broke still further.
?That turned out to be a good thing,? related Driscoll. ?About 8 feet of ice broke off, putting us back on a thicker part of the ice.?
The man who didn't speak English also put a rope around himself and joined Driscoll on his belly on the ice. With Officer Womack pulling on one of the ropes and other bystanders also helping, they were able to pull Fee to shore.
Officer Womack then began removing Fee's wet clothing and replacing it with his own dry clothing in an effort to raise the man's body temperature.
Womack reported that the man had been in the icy water for 20 minutes and was in and out of consciousness.
By then, Beckwourth Fire Department's Greg McCaffrey and Martin Schafer had arrived, and Eastern Plumas Hospital had been contacted. Driscoll recalled that the dog which had begun this chain of events went out again onto the ice and went through a second time.
This time, however, the dog managed to get out of the water by himself.
Womack continued to administer first aid until Fee, who was then suffering from severe hypothermia, was flown to a Reno hospital where he was held until his body temperature returned to normal.
The Loyalton man was released later that same day.
Grateful family members have since contacted Driscoll with their thanks, but Driscoll demurred.
?I could never have gotten him out by myself. It took all of us working together,? he said.
Deputy Womack was equally modest about his lifesaving efforts. He doesn't even know the name of the man whose life he saved.
?It's just part of my job,? he said.
Fee, on the other hand, is alive and well, at home and grateful to those who saved him.
"We appreciate all the efforts by the EMTs who came from the hospital, the officer from the sheriff's department and Beckwourth Fire Department who all came very promptly," said Burnam. "We thank Tim Driscoll and the others who stopped and helped. I don't think Danny could have held on much longer."
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