A blog about living in Aberdeen, New Jersey.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

History: Four Boys Rescued From Frozen Lake Lefferts (1952)

A story in today's Matawan-Aberdeen Patch about Matawan emergency responders receiving ice rescue training prompted me to check our local history for stories of such situations here. I found the article below from the 3 Jan 1952 edition of The Matawan Journal about a human chain rescue that saved four boys from a frozen Lake Lefferts but imperiled the rescuers.

Four Rescued From Plunge Through Ice  
Use Of Rope After Human Chain Fails Is Means Of Saving Boys Floundering In Lake

Earle V. Whitney, Keyport's recreational director, was one of those whose prompt action Saturday saved the lives of two teen-age boys struggling in the icy waters of Lake Lefferts after a break through the ice. Two others were plunged into the lake also, in trying to form a human chain to reach the boys floundering in the icy water.

The near-tragedy was brought about when Allen Johnson, 14, of 250 Jackson St., Matawan, skating in the Buttonwood Manor area, sought to cross the lake to join boys playing hockey in Scadis Cove. The ice, three inches thick in the cove, had melted to half that thickness farther out and broke under the weight of the Johnson boy.

Richard Bader, 17, of 24 Park Ave., Matawan, one of the hockey players, skated out towards the floundering youth and then tried to reach him by sprawling on the ice and extending a hockey stick. The ice gave way more when Bader sought to pull Johnson, who seized the stick, to him. The larger boy was then clutched by the smaller one and they went down. When they came up, Bader managed to tread the icy water long enough to give time for them to be saved.

A human chain formed, but the two boys at the end of the chain, Robert Demmery, 14, of Morganville, and William Clifton, 18, of Main St., Matawan, plunged into the lake up to their chins when they put their weight on the crackling ice.

Whitney Secures Rope

Mr. Whitney, skating in the area, raced, off the ice and secured two ropes from the property of William Beedle. Mr. Beedle is said to put the ropes out each winter in anticipation of just such need. Mr. Whitney returned to the ice and cast the ropes at the boys struggling in the waters. Bader had secured grip on the hockey stick by then but was calling out he could hold on no longer when a rope was cast to him.

Matawan patrolman Robert McGowan and Special Officer John Berbrick appeared at the scene and joined the others trying to pull the weight of the four boys clutching the ropes to safety.

Shivering and blue with the cold, the four boys were rushed to the nearby home of Mr. and Mrs. Lawrence Barker, Ravine Dr. Police and the Matawan First Aid Squad arrived soon after. The boys were stripped of their drenched clothing and wrapped in blankets. Mrs. Barker and Mrs. William Brown, a nurse of nearby Grant St., provided hot water bottles and hot drinks.

They were later .examined by Dr. Aram Captanian and apparently found none the worse for their icy ordeal.

Matawan Fire Department also was called to the scene.

The Johnson boy is reported to have had two younger companions with him when he was skating in the Buttonwood Manor area, but they are said to have disappeared when he fell through the ice. Their identities are not known.


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