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Way to go, Joe!

UC engineering student braves icy water to save two young boys

by Marisa Whitaker
January 2013

Joe Bredestege’s innocent stroll through the park with his little sisters quickly turned into a dangerous rescue mission. The 18-year-old freshman had simply been looking for something to do on Cincinnati’s west side before the end of winter break when he looked across Delhi Park’s Clearview Lake to see two young boys drop through the ice.

“I had been watching them as they moved out onto the ice to make sure they were safe, but I knew I was going in if the ice broke,” he says. He handed one of his sisters his coat and moved out onto the lake with an outstretched hand as the ice started cracking under his weight, too.

The two 11-year-old boys, Kayden King and Ethan Spurlock, were with a group of friends on Jan. 5, 2013, and were dared into going out onto the lake. They even had their bike and a scooter on the ice. Joe relied on his quick thinking, Eagle Scout-smarts and lifeguard training to help the boys.

“They said they couldn’t swim when I asked,” says Joe. He heard the ice cracking beneath him and knew that he would have to face the cold water and, bravely, he did after the ice finally gave under his weight.

Despite the cold, he kept instructing Kayden and Ethan to “get on the ice, lay down, roll out.” He had always heard ice water will take one’s breath away and that fact surely proved itself this day. He was yelling between breaths but was not scared.

“I was honestly more scared when they were interviewing me on Channel 5,” he laughs.

Joe’s 8-year-old sister, Grace, was standing at the side of the lake holding Joe’s coat and thinking she would never see him again. As luck would have it, another man saw the calamity at the lake and ran out to the boys with an extension cord to use as an impromptu rope.

“When he threw the rope, I was losing focus,” Joe recalls. The water was making him lethargic. A passerby called 911 but by the time the fire department and police showed, everyone was on shore.  The firefighters helped with getting the boys warm and dry while they awaited their parents.

Joe’s mother, Christy, arrived at the scene to bring him a change of clothes and take his sisters home.

“I got to the park and was met by a firefighter, who told me that my son is a hero,” she says. “When we got home, he didn’t realize how amazing what he did was. He would barely talk about it but told me that he was so cold and his hands hurt a lot.”

Joe is in his second semester at UC working on a mechanical engineering degree. He’s been lifeguarding at the UC Rec Center since summer and has goals to work for NASA or emerging space organizations. Joe has been receiving letters and calls from family and friends and the families of Kayden and Ethan have called him their “New Year’s angel.”

Marisa Whitaker is a student intern with UC Magazine.