UPDATED: An unidentified man and a woman helped bring to safety two Arlington girls who had fallen through the ice Saturday, Jan. 19, at Hill's Pond. The girls, 12 and 10, were cold and wet but unharmed.
David Bean of Arlington said he does not know the name of the man, who he referred to as a "hero who got wet, though I commended him to some nearby friends for thawing out."
"I didn't see the girls on the ice," Bean told YourArlington on Jan. 20, "but they went in about 20 feet from the north [sunny] side near the steps.
"There was another kid on the ice who retreated to the south side. I guess that they went on to the ice in the shade on the south side, where it's normally stronger and walked across toward the steps until it could no longer support them. They were lucky to go in so close to shore.
"It looked like they had been in up to their necks (the tall hero was wet to the waist) but were probably able to stand. My next guess is that they were in a hole in the ice and could not break enough around them to escape; it required someone to break the ice from shore to release them."
Other dog walkers were going to drive the girls home, he said, "but I think the cops arrived and did that for them."
He went on to comment: "Obviously, a situation like this requires immediate action, and just a few seconds or a few feet difference in the depth could make a huge and fatal difference in the outcome. If the town authorities feel that emergency response is fast enough to rely on completely in such a situation, I think they are wrong."
Until a few years ago, he said, the town placed rescue boards at two or three places around the pond -- red-painted boards about 6 feet long with a rope attached.
Such a board could have been used to pull out the girls, he said.
He added that the president of the Friends of Menotomy Rocks Park said she will speak to Joe Connelly, head of town recreation, about the rescue boards.
"My dog fell through in exactly that way about 21 years ago by charging ducks who were in the water at the edge of the ice," he said in a post the Arlington email list. "After that, I always went around the north side with her when the ice was thawing."
In a report, Arlington police said they were called at 3:23 p.m.
"An anonymous third-party caller reported this incident and later declined to give reporting information," the report said.
On police arrival, both girls were conscious, alert and able to communicate well with all parties. The report said they "were cold and appeared to be wet from their feet up to their shoulders."
Both sat in the rear transport area of a police car as the heat was turned up to the maximum level in an effort to warm the girls. Both girls initially declined any additional medical attention.
Mothers of both girls brought additional dry clothing, blankets and other warming layers with them to Menotomy Rocks Park.
Both parents were appreciative of all officers and citizens on scene. One officer informed the parents they should have a serious talk with their children about the dangers of walking on thin ice during winter. Both parents acknowledged this.
At the station while filing this report, one parent contacted police and asked whether they knew anything about a gentleman who was in the water assisting the girls. Police said had not known this and no other adults in the area appeared to be wet.
One parent said she "just wanted to thank this party if we found out who this alleged individual was."
One parent said she has been in contact with the unidentified man and woman.
One of the parents wrote an account of the events. It says, in part:
"Yesterday we were at our friends' house. I was inside with the parents, she was outside with her friend. They asked if they could leave the yard, and went to a nearby park.
"While there, the two girls decided it would be fun to see how strong the ice on the pond was. Well, the answer was 'not very' — it was 40 degrees (4 degree Celsius) yesterday, and the ice was thick on one side, but very thin on the other. They tested it out near the edge a bit, then walked across it. When they were almost to the other side, the ice cracked and they fell in.
"The girls screamed, and others in the park heard them. Two kind strangers assisted by pulling one girl out with a stick, and going in after the other and carrying her out ....
"They were both terrified, rightfully so -- falling through thin ice is extremely dangerous and we all feel very fortunate.
"I generally avoid 'worst first' thinking, and not having spent much time in the park in the winter, we hadn’t talked about ice rescue. However, we have talked about it now, because the girls, while doing the most important thing (making a lot of noise to attract help), did *not* know how to get themselves out when the ice broke.
"They are both researching how to properly attempt to get up onto the ice, starting with staying calm, and flattening themselves out as they pull themselves up to take up as large a surface area as possible ....
"I am, of course, scared of what could have happened, but what DID happen is that my daughter made a stupid decision to go out on the ice, and when a problem occurred, several very kind, helpful adults stopped to assist kids they didn’t know. Then our amazing first responders took over and made sure they were returned safely."
This story was published Tuesday, Jan. 22, 2013, and updated the next day.