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Two Whatcom men die after falling through ice on private pond near Van Zandt

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Two Whatcom County men died after trying to save a pair of dogs that fell through the ice on a private pond Tuesday evening near Van Zandt.

The identities of the two adults were not released Tuesday, and only one of the bodies was recovered, Whatcom County Fire District 1 Chief Mel Blankers told The Bellingham Herald. Blankers said he did not know the ages of either victim, but said he believed one was in his 70s and owned the property on which the pond was located and the other was a bit younger than that.

“We’re going to go back out in daylight and try to find the body of the second gentlemen,” Blankers said.

According to PulsePoint, fire crews From Whatcom County Fire Districts 1, 16 and 18, South Whatcom Fire Authoritiy and Medic One were called to the 4100 block of Linnell Road at 5:52 p.m. for the report of a water rescue.

Blankers said the tragedy began after the two dogs fell through the ice into the pond.

The man who was in his 70s attempted to rescue the dogs, using a small ladder to distribute his weight.

“Unfortunately, that ladder wasn’t big enough — I’m not sure you could have gotten a big enough ladder,” Blankers said. “The ice was pretty thin. ... We were able to just pull the boats through the ice, and it kind of broke off in chunks.”

Blankers estimated the ice was only 2 inches thick at the most, and parts of the pond that saw more sunlight were free of ice.

Once the first man went in, the second jumped in and attempted to rescue the first, Blankers said. He made his way almost to the middle of the pond, but he also eventually broke through and went under the ice.

Blankers said he believes somebody from the nearby house called 911 to report the incident, but the pond was “pretty quiet” by the time the first responders arrived. The first on scene used a paddle boat and tools to begin breaking the ice and aid the search.

As more crews began responding from around the county, Blankers said they were able to get two boats on the pond to search for the victims.

“We had a lot of people out there and a lot of tools,” Blankers said.

The search turned up the body of the man who was in his 70s, Blankers said, but could not locate the second.

The body of one of the dogs also was found Tuesday night.

“Somehow, one of the two dogs was able to get itself out,” Blankers said. “I really don’t know how that happened.”

Support Officer Community Crisis Care Executive Director Kendra Cristelli said support officers were on scene to assist the families. If you need help or more information following a tragedy or trauma, go to supportofficer.org.

South Whatcom Fire Authority firefighters and members of its water rescue team conducted ice rescue drills in 2017 at Lake Louise near Sudden Valley, Wash.

David Rasbach joined The Bellingham Herald in 2005 and now covers breaking news. He has been an editor and writer in several western states since 1994.

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