One family got a Christmas miracle this year when a Utah sheriff's deputy decided to risk his own life to save their son.
On Christmas Day, an 8-year-old boy fell through an icy pond while chasing his dog, authorities confirmed to Fox News. Police said a group of children was playing near a pond in New Harmony, Utah, when one of the boy's dogs ran off.
The young boy followed the dog out onto the pond. Then something horrific happened; the ice cracked and he fell in. Another child, who lived nearby, saw the boy fall through the ice. Unable to help him, he ran to tell family members who called authorities.
Sergeant Aaron Thompson of the Washington County Sheriff’s Office arrived at the scene first. He told Fox that he “made the personal decision” to attempt the rescue without using any equipment.
According to an interview given to The Spectrum, Sgt. Thompson played down his heroism. He said he dived into the icy water to save the boy because he knew there was no chance for the boy to survive if he waited for special equipment.
"I knew what I was getting into," the veteran deputy and former search and rescue dive team member said. "I knew how cold that water was going to be..."
When Thompson arrived at the lake, he spoke to another person there, who said she had seen the boy's hand just minutes earlier. Thompson stripped off his police gear and dived into the water. He used his hands and forearms to batter his way into the ice.
“I couldn’t feel anything. I didn’t notice anything when I was doing it,” Thompson said at a news conference on Tuesday. “I knew that time was of the essence. I had a very short window to get that child out of the water.”
He continued, "As the ice got thicker, I couldn’t break it with my arms and my fists anymore, so I had to jump up on top of the ice, putting my weight on it, and then pound on it to get it to break."
Eventually, Sgt. Thompson—wading in the water up to his neck about 25 feet from the shoreline—reached the child and lifted the child from the water.
"Once I saw his face I just pulled his head up above the water," Thompson said.
The sergeant said the boy had been in the water for about 30 minutes. However, Thompson added that the frigid temperatures—the water was 37 degrees—actually gave him a chance at survival.
The boy was quickly taken away in a waiting ambulance. Later, he was airlifted to Dixie Regional Medical Center in St. George, Utah. The boy's condition had not been released.
Thompson was also hospitalized. He was treated for symptoms of hypothermia, as well as cuts and abrasions sustained while breaking through the ice.
Sheriff Cory Pulsipher called Thompson a hero.
"A lot of people would probably like to think they would have dived in too, but how many actually would have?" he said. "He hates having the spotlight on him, but he's a hero."
Thompson replied by crediting the sheriff's office for giving him the skills needed. He said his dive team experience proved invaluable, adding that the office maintains "a culture where many deputies train in their personal time to equip themselves with skills that can be used on the job."