PATERSON - Fire officials say two teenagers were rescued after they fell through ice and plunged into freezing waters Tuesday afternoon.
"I was terrified. So terrified. I thought we weren't going to make it. We were that close,” says Shi'eym Lennon, 16.
The two teens say that they thought that the frozen Passaic River was strong enough to support them and tried to cross it.
"When I first went under, cold as hell, “says Shawntel Wilson, 16. “I'm not going to lie to you. That water was freezing cold."
A passerby saw the boys go into the water and ran to get help by knocking on the door of the nearby firehouse.
Paterson Battalion Chief Brian Rathbone says he went out onto the ice without a wetsuit. The teens were screaming for help and suffering from hypothermia.
“I low-crawled as fast as I could, as quick as I could out there to the point where I broke through the ice,” Rathbone says.
Rathbone swam the rest of the way while firefighter Wesley Mann threw a ring in between the two boys. As they swam back to shore, the ice became too thick and Chief Rathbone had to break the ice apart with his body.
Deputy Chief Brian McDermott also went into the frozen river to help break up the ice.
“It’s a testament to the rapid response and the training of the Paterson Fire Department, these two boys were saved. There's no doubt,” McDermott says.
The teens say that they are grateful to the firefighters and that they have learned their lesson to never go out onto frozen water again.
“Me and ice are obviously not friends,” says Wilson.
Fire officials say it is never safe to stand on a frozen river because water conditions constantly change.