A Delaware County family came terrifyingly close to losing their nine-year-old son three weeks ago, when he fell through the ice of a frozen pond. They believe a decision they made more than a year ago saved his life, and they are sharing their story in hopes of helping other families.
As 9-year-olds go, Zachary Allen's mother says he's pretty by the book.
"He is our rule-follower,” said Lindsey Allen. “Very good head on his shoulders."
They are traits that help him in the classroom, and in the pool at Goldfish Swim School in Dublin. "Some strokes are really hard, but some you memorize and they're really easy," said Zachary.
She started Zachary and his brothers in swim classes there last year. "We just said okay it's time. We need them to be not just decent in the water, we need them to be strong in the water,” she said.
She never anticipated how important that decision would be.
Three weeks ago, Zachary set aside the rules and warnings from his parents, and gave into his nine-year-old curiosity. He and some friends ventured out onto the ice of their neighborhood retention pond, when he says the ice below him gave way.
"There was a noise, I looked down, my leg was already in, and the rest of the ice was breaking. And then soon I fell through,” he said. "I was just thinking I had to get out of there. I tried to get on the ice. I was treading water. I tried to get on the ice, but it broke."
One of his friends tried to help him, but his foot also broke through the ice.
Zachary looked for the closest bank, and broke the ice to clear a path to land.
On the phone with a 911 operator, a weeping Lindsey said, "He just keeps saying ‘my curiosity got the best of me.’" But when it mattered most, panic didn't get the best of him.
Medics told Lindsey her son was very lucky. "They said that had his head submerged, it would have been an entirely different story,” she said. “It's terrifying to think of what could happen. But today I'm just so thankful. So proud of him."
They both say if not for his lessons at Goldfish, he might not have lived to learn a lesson on the ice that day.
"I'm never going near a frozen pond again,” he said.