BETTENDORF, Iowa (KWQC) – Eleven years ago, Ron Simmering and his wife got Zoe, their dog. But now it’s just the two of them living in the house overlooking a neighbor’s pond.
“I did lose my wife to cancer,” Simmering said. “November 8 this past year.”
On January 23 at around 3 PM, he almost lost Zoe, too. The pond, near Crestview Heights Ct., was almost completely frozen that day. An aerator system meant to help keep fish alive was on, creating two areas of open water.
“Usually I tie her but I didn’t this time,” Simmering said. “I came looking for her and I saw her little head bobbing up and down in the open water out here.”
His first thought, “Oh my God she’s going to die,” is what led him to grab a ladder. He used it to crawl onto the ice.
“I almost got her out and then the whole thing tipped and went head first into the pond,” Simmering said.
Then, the ladder sunk. It was just Zoe and Ron.
“She kept climbing on top of me and there was no way I could lift her up over me because it was way over my head,” Simmering said.
So he called for help.
“I yelled and I cursed and I thanked God for what I had in life,” he said.
A block and a half away, Tim Raymon and his wife heard his cries for help. The former marine immediately ran toward the pond.
“I tried to extend a branch out to get him but he said he was so cold he couldn’t hold onto it,” Raymon said. “My next concern was, oh my gosh, he might go under.”
Raymon called police but wasn’t done.
“Handed the phone to my wife and then slid out onto the ice to hold onto him personally,” he said.
Within minutes, Officer Jeremy Salsberry was there.
“Got down to the pond and noticed that one gentleman was lying on the ice and had another gentleman in a hug,” Salsberry said. “Think Titanic at the end, yeah, that’s pretty much how it was.”
But these were strangers holding on.
“I did have to ask his name when I was holding onto him,” Raymon said.
“And he says, ‘I’m not going to let go of you. I’ve got you,’ and I thought, ‘I’m not going to let go of you either, Tim,” Simmering said.
Then, Officer Brian Hanssen arrived.
“And then they just decided the best thing to do is just grab ahold of me and do the old chain gang just like in the movie a Wonderful Life and they just slid us right out,” Raymon said.
Neighbors brought over blankets once Simmering got out of his cold, wet clothes. After the first responders assisted the two men to shore, Hanssen went back to save the dog.
“Officer Hanssen, I turned around in time to see him sitting in a canoe,” Salsberry said.
Hanssen says it was his first pond rescue. He has canoed before, but he says it’s teamwork that got the job done.
“It worked out smoothly you could not have asked for anything better,” he said.
The outcome comes a sigh of relief for everyone.
“Well God’s good,” Raymon said.
“I just thank them so very much,” Simmering said.
Police say the lesson to take away from Simmering’s story is to be careful on ice on ponds and to never hesitate to call for help. The Iowa DNR issued a reminder on Tuesday, saying even though ice fishing has been underway for several weeks, anyone heading out on the water should take extra precautions. Officials say you should avoid any spots where things like rocks or trees are sticking through the ice, avoid slushy or dark looking spots, and don’t go out alone.