KEARNEY — A walk on a warmer than usual Christmas Eve day turned into a traumatic event at Cottonmill Park near Kearney.
The Kearney Volunteer Fire Department’s dive and rescue team recovered a mixed-breed dog that had fallen through the Cottonmill Lake ice this morning (Tuesday), according to Kearney Police Department Sgt. Greg Benson.
A crowd of emergency personnel and law enforcement and the dog’s family watched from the road as KPD, CHI Health Good Samaritan paramedics and KVFD attempted to resuscitate the dog at about 11:30 a.m.
Unfortunately, the dog died.
"(It happened) right on Christmas Eve. It couldn’t be a worse time," Benson said. "I mean it’s never a good time to lose a dog, but my goodness."
Benson said Jessica McDonald, a rural Kearney resident, and her children were walking the dog, which they had purchased from the Kearney Area Animal Shelter. The dog was on a leash but escaped from one of the children’s hands when she heard geese honking as they sat on the ice.
"And the dog took out on the ice, and fell through the ice and into the water," Benson said.
The family unsuccessfully tried calling the dog back to shore.
"It’s my understanding that the dog at one point did try to get back out but it couldn’t get back up onto the ice," Benson said.
Benson was told that one of McDonald’s children tried to go on the ice and rescue the dog. "But then a passer-by stopped and said, ‘Hey, get back. Get back off of the ice,’" he said.
About 10 minutes later at 11:13 a.m., the family called 911 to rescue the dog.
When KPD arrived seven minutes later, Benson said they determined it was too dangerous to rescue the dog themselves. They called KVFD Dive and Rescue to retrieve the dog, which was still swimming in the water at the time.
As two rescuers slid onto the ice, Benson said the dog went under the water.
Dan Mosel of North Platte was visiting family in Kearney for Christmas when he visited Cottonmill Park on Tuesday. He said he witnessed the rescue turned recovery.
"Firefighters arrived with the proper equipment and were able to reach the animal, but a few moments too late," Mosel wrote in an email to the Hub.
Benson said he and other officers were moved by the situation.
"We just sat here for awhile just thinking what else could we have done," he said. "It’s heart-wrenching, and then to have to go up there and tell the news to the family."
Benson said he doesn’t know what more could have been done to save the dog.
"I guess I’m just thankful that there was no human life lost," he said.