EAGLEVILLE — After more than 50 years of ice fishing, Melvin Beebe thought he had the sport down pat.
That is until Friday, when while ice fishing on a lake in Austinburg Township, the ice suddenly gave way from under him.
“I have ice fished every year of my life since I was in my 20s and I never had such a close call,” said Beebe, 77. “I am happy to be here.”
Friday afternoon’s fishing trip started just like many others. Beebe and his grandson, Colton Hinkle, and Hinkle’s friend, Cory Prine, both of Jefferson, gathered at the Beebe farm on Jefferson-Eagleville Road. They loaded up their gear and headed out for a fun day of ice fishing.
It was a normal day, Hinkle said, until about 4 p.m. when he went to drill another hole.
“I heard Grandpa yelling, ‘Help! Help! Help!’” he said. “I ran over and saw he had fallen into about 13 feet of water.”
To Hinkle’s horror, Prine fell through the ice trying to help Beebe.
“But he didn’t go under and he got out; he rolled himself out,” Hinkle said. “Then I tried to get Grandpa out and I fell in and went under. I thought I was done.”
As Hinkle went down, he remembered the most important rule his grandfather had taught him — don’t panic. Somehow, Hinkle rolled out of the hole, but his grandfather was still in water and time was running out.
“It seemed like forever, but it was probably closer to five minutes,” Hinkle said.
As for calling for help, their cell phones were in their pockets and wet.
Prine had a plan — he laid flat on his stomach and grabbed Beebe’s hands. He directed Hinkle to get behind him and pull on his boots as hard as possible. With a few strong pulls, they yanked Beebe out of the water, put him on their sled and got him in the van. Then they drove straight to their grandfather’s home in Eagleville.
Beebe was so cold, he was shivering and it took hours for him to completely warm up, he said.
“The Lord was with me,” said Beebe, who is a retired farmer and bus driver with Jefferson Area Local School District.
Hinkle credits Prine’s “cool and focused plan” for his grandfather’s rescue.
“Without Cory, I don’t know if we would have gotten Grandpa out,” he said.
Beebe’s wife, Melvina, is very happy to have her husband home, and proud of the boys.
Beebe’s daughter, Lynne Beebe Morrow of Wayne Township, said the incident really shook the boys up.
“They were so scared, but they are our heroes,” she said.