Sunday afternoon, Sparta police received a call that two children fell into Perch Lake while playing at Fishermen’s Park.
“It is not something that we have trained for as a police department. I think they, at this point, just followed their instincts. Many of these officers are parents, so I think they were just going with their guts and they saw a kid that needed help and did what they needed to do,” said Sparta Police Department Deputy Chief Emilee Nottestad. “And I’m sure they would all do it again in a heartbeat.”
Two Sparta police officers, and one of the children, were treated and released for hypothermia-related symptoms after exiting the water.
A second child, 9-year-old Jaden Stalsberg, passed away that night after being pulled from the water.
“It can be a severe medical emergency that you definitely want to get help. Just depends on the temperature and some of the other factors, but hypothermia, once your body does get down to a low enough temperature it kind of starts to slow some of your organ functions and things like that,” said Gundersen Health System Trauma and Injury Prevention Coordinator Megan Anderson.
Nottestad says the Sparta Police Department does not see a lot of these types of incidents, but being in Wisconsin water and ice safety is something they take seriously.
Officials say no matter how frozen a lake or body of water might look, there is still a chance it could be unsafe.
“I think there’s always a risk involved when you’re dealing with frozen water. Certainly when there’s moving water involved it makes it more dangerous, this was by the dam. So that adds to it,” said Nottestad.
The Wisconsin DNR recommends dressing in layers before going onto frozen lakes, ponds or rivers and look for clear ice to walk on.
If you fall through, they say go back in the direction you came from, lie down on the unbroken ice and then roll away from the hole.
A GoFundMe for the family of Jaden has already surpassed $15,000.