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Mont. firefighters rescue 5-year-old who fell through ice crack on Rimrocks

The boy fell through the ice covering a deep, five-foot fissure in the ground


Matt Hoffman
Billings Gazette, Mont.

Crews rescued a boy who fell through snow into a crack in the Rimrocks on Monday.

The boy had fallen into a snow-covered fissure between rocks and was lodged at least 5 feet below the surface of the Rims, Billings Fire Department Battalion Chief Kevin Johnson said.

The first fire crews on the scene shortly after 5 p.m. secured a rope to the boy to make sure he didn’t fall farther, and a firefighter was eventually lowered into the crack parallel to the boy.

The boy was lifted from the crack with the help of a harness and rope system. He was loaded into an ambulance for evaluation and transport to a local hospital, but Johnson said he didn’t have any life-threatening injuries.

The boy was with others when he plunged through melting snow into the fissure. Crews used a signal from a cellphone on the 911 call to pinpoint the location between the Swords Park parking area and the parking area near the airport roundabout.

“The snow’s not stable,” Johnson said. He recommended that people stick to the bike path until the snow melts completely away.

Snow and mud make ground unstable in the area in the spring, he said, and the winter’s freeze-thaw cycle can expand cracks and open new fissures. Those conditions complicated the rescue.

“It’s real important to go slow and steady,” he said.

The crack the boy fell into was just narrow enough to swallow a person.

“We had to use one of our smaller firefighters,” he said. “Some of those big guys wouldn’t fit.”

Rim rescues occur every spring as snow melts out, Johnson said.

“Everybody’s been cooped up for the winter months,” he said. “I encourage everyone to use caution when they’re walking on the Rims.”


©2019 the Billings Gazette (Billings, Mont.)