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Bicyclist hailed as hero in Hanover pond rescue

A 58-year-old man who just happened to be bicycling past saved the life of a teenage girl who had fallen through the ice of a pond in Hanover Thursday afternoon, said Hanover Fire Chief Jeff Blanchard.

Richard Cullen of Scituate was biking by Forge Pond when he heard a girl’s screams. Initially disregarding them, Cullen thought about it and turned back to see a break in the ice and the 14-year-old Hanover girl’s head poking out, Blanchard said.

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Cullen flagged down a car, telling the driver to call police while he grabbed a stick and waded into the pond, breaking the thin ice with his hands. Once he reached the girl, whose head had gone underwater, he stood on the bottom and pushed her up so she could breathe. The water in the area is 8 to 10 feet deep, the fire department said.

He then brought her back towards shore, where two other passersby, Russ Reynolds of Marshfield and Ross Ferguson of Hanover helped to pull them out.

By the time fire officials responded to the scene, three minutes after the call came in at 3:30 p.m., all four were on shore, responsive and walking around, Blanchard said. Ambulances took in Cullen and the girl to warm them up.

Rescue workers took the girl to Cape Cod Hospital for treatment of hypothermia. Cullen refused treatment.

Blanchard noted that Cullen took the important safety step of letting people know before he ventured out onto the ice.

“It worked out well,” Blanchard said. “He [Cullen] said his initial concern was that he would be out there with her [in the water] and no one would know.”

Blanchard said this has been the department’s only instance of someone falling through the ice this winter, though the department had done ice rescue training on another nearby pond the day before. Fortunately, none of those skills had to be put into action Thursday afternoon.

Despite the region’s cold temperatures over the past couple of weeks, Blanchard advised people to avoid going onto ice-covered ponds or rivers.

“Areas of the ice can be very thin, even though the edge is very thick,” Blanchard said. “We never tell someone that the ice is safe to go on.”

Lauren Dezenski can be reached at lauren.dezenski@globe.com
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