The day after his 8-year-old daughter almost drowned in an ice-covered pond behind his house, Dale Buuck wasnt sure he wanted to talk about his familys ordeal.
But he did for one reason: He wants the world to know his 12-year-old son is a hero.
I dont know how he did what he did, but he saved his sister and me, Buuck said Sunday afternoon, sitting with his children in their home on Tonkel Road, north of Fort Wayne.
It was about 12:30 p.m. Saturday when it happened. The sky was mostly cloudy, and the temperature was close to 30 degrees. His son, Tony, was shooting baskets in the driveway, and his daughter, Sammy, was walking along the edge of their small fishing pond, which was coated with about two inches of ice.
I knew it was black ice, she said, and I thought it would crack, so I was curious to see if it would break.
Sammy walked onto the frozen sheet and made it more than 10 feet from shore before the ice cracked and she fell into frigid, 9-foot-deep water.
She knows how to swim, but wearing snow pants, she struggled to stay above water and breathe.
All I remember is just seeing seaweed in my face and just catching the last glimpse of Tony and then just passing out, she said.
Tony heard his sister cry for help and saw her in the water. You hear about this stuff happening and how horrible it is, and I just thought, No, this isnt happening, Tony said.
He ran to the pond, stripped off his hat and gloves.
I took off my coat because somewhere I remembered you need to take off your coat if youre going to do something like that, he said.
He dashed across the pond as ice cracked under his feet. When he reached her, he told her to swim toward him, but she couldnt. Then he fell through.
In the water, he told his sister to try to float on her back, but by that point, she was unconscious.
I realized that she was going to start sinking, he said. I remember reaching over and just grabbing a hold of her coat hood.
Numb from the neck down, he treaded water with one arm and held Sammy with the other. She just kept getting heavier and heavier, he said.
Dale Buuck, who was in the house, heard his son yelling for help and rushed outside. Using a ladder, he spread his weight on the ice as he tried to reach Tony and Sammy, but he ended up in the water, too.
For a short while, Buuck struggled to find a way to bring his kids to safety. But he eventually thrashed a path through the ice, and once he could touch the bottom, he was able to bring Tony into the shallows and onto shore.
Just as the father was thinking he was not going to have the strength to go back to rescue Sammy off the bottom of the pond, he saw what his son had done.
Sure enough, he still had a death grip on her and had her coat hood, Buuck said.
With Sammy on shore, her father started CPR and Tony ran to the house to call 911. She was not breathing. She was blue. Her eyes were open and so dilated. She just was out of it, her dad said.
Despite being underwater for two to three minutes, Sammy responded quickly to CPR and gasped for breath. Emergency workers arrived insanely fast, Buuck said, and loaded his daughter into an ambulance.
Paramedics helped restore her breathing. She was in critical condition when they took her to Parkview Regional Medical Center just down the road. Father and son were also taken to the hospital to be treated for hypothermia, frostbite and cuts and bruises.
Sammy regained consciousness in the emergency room. She said her first thought was, Oh my gosh, Im so cold. But she eventually warmed up under blankets.
Buucks wife, Karen, said she was out of the house selling Girl Scout cookies with their older daughter when all this happened. A chaplain at Parkview called her and told her that three of her family members were in the emergency room.
When she got there, she knew her husband and Tony were going to be all right, but Sammy was still receiving a CT scan.
When she came back, I leaned over and said, Do you know who I am? and she said Mommy, Karen Buuck said. Thats when I knew she was going to be OK.
Sammy came home Sunday afternoon. She had shaken off some cramps and a little bit of water in her lungs and was feeling fine as she sat on the couch with her dad and brother.
Dale Buuck, 51, said the experience has left his family with some lessons learned, including the need to keep a life preserver and a rope near the pond. But, he said, the rules concerning the pond remain the same, especially this one: You dont get on the pond when theres ice on it unless Dad has gone out there and drilled a bunch of holes.
They know the rules, Karen Buuck said of her children. But when youre 8 years old, you hear things a certain way and maybe you dont follow things quite the way youre supposed to.