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Man plunges into frozen lake to save boy; neighbors pull out a further three kids

Four children suffered mild hypothermia after being pulled from the icy waters of a small Illinois lake Thursday afternoon. WMAQ's Dick Johnson reports.

CHICAGO – Four young friends who fell into a frozen pond in Chicago’s northern suburb of Mariner’s Cove have a new hero today -- a rugged dad with a ready smile who didn’t think twice about plunging into ice to rescue one boy.

“I was working on the computer and my kids came in yelling that someone fell through the ice,” Robert George told The Chicago Sun-Times. “So I ran out, dressed in a T-shirt and sweatpants, and saw that two of them were out a ways and two others were closer, and there were some adults trying to throw them a rope.”

According to Chicago's Daily Herald, no one knows how long the 16-year-old boy, 12-year-old girl and two 9-year-old boys were in the frigid water. (There were conflicting reports on the gender and ages of the four children. Except for one, their names have not been made public.)

What they do know is that the four had wandered onto the pond, despite parents’ warnings to stay off the thinning ice.

"I was thinking I was going to die," nine-year-old Ryan Dugan told NBCChicago.com. "The water was up to about my neck and I was trying to doggie-paddle to the shore."

Read NBCChicago.com’s Four Children Rescued from North Suburban Lake

Dugan, a fourth grader, said he had followed the other three onto Third Lake, near Grayslake, shortly before 5 p.m. on Thursday when all four broke through the ice and went under. The children were about 50 feet from shore in one direction and about 20 feet away in the other, Grayslake Fire Protection District Lt. Mike Lakins told NBCChicago.com.

Neighbors heard the children cry for help and were able to pull three to safety by using ropes.

“They were saying help us, please help us,” Izabela Stepien, a rescuer, told NBCChicago.com.

But for the fourth boy it was far from over.

“He was out there and he kept saying 'I can’t feel my legs,'” George said. “I just couldn’t stand here. I know I am a good swimmer and I could fight my way through the ice.”

George tied the rope around his waist and forged ahead, grabbing the boy and pulling him to safety.

The children were not hospitalized but were still dealing with mild hypothermia. They also learned a valuable lesson, Dugan said, adding “don’t go onto to thin ice.”

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