Tragedy At The Rat Farm !Update!

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!Update! The men were identified by the Shasta County Coroner’s office as Noel Smith, 38, of Burney, and Nathan Smith, 32, of Citrus Heights.

Two men have died after falling through the ice Saturday evening trying to rescue a dog at the Big Lake boat launch in McArthur.

Paramedics were unable to resuscitate the two men, who had been submerged for several minutes under the icy water as firefighters and volunteers searched for them in a duck hunter’s boat.

Video footage posted on the Intermountain News Web site shows firefighters feeling around in the slush-covered, inky, black water with poles in the hopes of bumping into one of the men in the current.

Their identities haven’t been released by the Shasta County Coroner’s Office.

“I’ve had a lot of firemen call me up today before going to church wondering how to pray,” McArthur Volunteer Fire Department Chief Pat Oilar said today.

One of the men in the party apparently survived and swam to shore but he had severe hypothermia, Oilar said.

The other two men apparently had been submerged under the ice — one for about 20 to 25 minutes and the other for about 50 minutes, Oilar said.

Rescuers performed CPR on the two men before ambulances took them to the hospital.

The three men — all believed to be in their 30s and brothers — wound up in the water and ice after trying to get a dog that went through the ice first. “That was my understanding,” Oilar said. It’s also the chief’s understanding that the dog survived.

Oilar credited Jeff Stackhouse of McArthur for assisting in retrieving the two men.

“He was key in the rescue,” Oilar said.

Stackhouse had been hunting in the area, but unloaded his boat from a trailer to take several McArthur fire department volunteers on the lake to find the two men.

The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection received a call at 5:22 p.m. that three men had fallen into the ice at the Rat Farm boat launch, said Cal Fire Capt. Ed Almeda.

This time of year, the Rat Farm launch area is a popular duck hunting boat ramp as the Big Lake area remains one of the few marshy waterways not completely frozen over after cold spells.

But, Oilar said, he didn’t know whether the three men were part of a hunting party. At least one witness said the men may have been fishing.

Oilar said it was strange that the two men appeared to have stripped down to their T-shirts before going after the dog.

The ice was 2 1/2 to 3 1/2 inches thick, Oilar said.

Assisting at the scene were firefighters from Cal Fire, the McArthur and Fall River volunteer fire departments, and Shasta County Sheriff’s Office.

Sources: Record Searchlight and Intermountain News

My prayers go out to all involved.

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