Man Recounts Dramatic Rescue From Icy Water

By Julie Carey
|  Friday, Feb 28, 2014  |  Updated 10:11 PM EDT
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An 80-year-old Virginia man, Bill Blackwell, tells his miraculous story of surviving an icy lake in hopes that others won't make the same mistake. News4's Northern Virginia Bureau Chief Julie Carey has his story.

Julie Carey

An 80-year-old Virginia man, Bill Blackwell, tells his miraculous story of surviving an icy lake in hopes that others won't make the same mistake. News4's Northern Virginia Bureau Chief Julie Carey has his story.

Bill Blackwell remembers lying in a pool of icy water, thinking, "Bill, you are going to die."

But the 80-year-old man miraculously survived -- and now he has a message for anyone who might repeat his mistakes: icy water is never safe, no matter how prepared you think you are.

"Never, never," Blackwell told News4's Northern Virginia bureau chief, Julie Carey.

Blackwell's tale of survival began on Sunday. His dog ran out onto the ice covering Lake Manassas, near Gainesville, Va., chasing some birds. Before Blackwell could react, the ice cracked and the dog plunged into the water.

Blackwell grabbed a canoe and inched out onto the ice to get the dog. But the ice couldn't hold him, and he plunged into the water, the canoe falling over his head.

Somehow, he managed to right the canoe and climb in. But he was still submerged in icy water.

"I was in this puddle of ice," Blackwell said. "Ice all around me -- you can't get out of it and I couldn't get out of it."

Blackwell had been alone at home at the time, but his wife and son returned soon. They called rescuers who donned cold water wet suits, but they could not reach Blackwell.

Channing Blackwell, Blackwell's son, said he was sure he was watching his dad die. He remembers Blackwell saying, "Son, I'm done. I'm dying."

Blackwell fell unconscious.

"I can't even say that I went to sleep -- there was just nothing," Blackwell said.

Just as hope seemed dimmest, a Park Service helicopter arrived to scoop Blackwell up and carry him to a local hospital. Miraculously, Blackwell spent only one night in the ICU and walked out the next day.

His dog survived as well.

But Blackwell is telling his story in hopes that others will understand how dangerous cold water is -- and how deadly ice can be.

"Never, never, even with a canoe as a support like I used -- never!" he said.

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