ROGERS, Minn. (KMSP) - The Rogers Police Chief is calling the rescue of a man, who was trapped underwater by a scissor lift, nothing short of a miracle.
Willie Hamer, 45 of New Hope, is in critical condition after suffering severe hypothermia Wednesday due to being submerged underwater for a half hour. Another victim, Jerry Gould, is in serious condition.
“It’s a long time to sit there and stare into someone's eyes and their face and know that everyone there - the fire chief, everyone, myself - is responsible for getting this man from out from under this vehicle,” said Rogers Police Chief Jeffrey Beahen.
Crouched in frigid water wearing a yellow dry suit, Chief Beahen held Hamer’s hyper-extended head in his hands just above water while another officer held Hamer’s hand below.
“It was that reassurance of we are here for you, we are not leaving this pond and we are not leaving this pond until you leave this pond,” said Chief Beahen.
According to Chief Beahen, shortly before noon a two-man crew from Gould Tree Service tried to use boards to stabilize a path to move a scissor lift needed to cut down a willow tree at the opposite side of a pond. But the scissor lift slipped on the icy slope and toppled over into the water, trapping the men underneath.
Gould was pinned face down, suffering serious injuries, but was able to break through the ice with his hands and sink into the pond to free himself. Somehow, he was able to use a wet cell phone to call 911 for help for his coworker, Hamer, who was still pinned underwater.
“Initially [the water] was up to just below his lip,” said Chief Beahen.
Quick-thinking, first responders recruited firefighters, some of whom work for the Public Works Department, for the water rescue. Working on the slippery ground, responders chained together a couple of end loaders to a private tow truck. By then, the danger had dragged the pinned Hamer deeper with the water up to his nostrils.
“As people moved about, that water would lap up on his nose and he had no place to go,” said Chief Beahen.
The situation was so dire, a representative from North Memorial was on scene standing by for medical guidance and ready to amputate Hamer's arm as a last resort to get him out.
Thankfully, the plan worked. A three-inch lift was all that was needed to free Hamer’s arm. Neighbors watching on told Fox 9 he was blue, but conscious.
“Many times I’ve seen people pull together, but it was amazing to see it as quickly as they did today,” said Jason Boeck, a neighbor.