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Teenage Athlete Saves Old Man And Dog From Submerged Vehicle

by Nolan Hawk

A 17-year-old high school triple-threat athlete saved an an 83-year-old man and his dog from a Jeep that had plunged into the frigid water of a lake in Iowa.

Joe Salmon, a high school athlete, was ice fishing with his mother at East Okoboji Lake, when he witnessed a grey Jeep Wrangler drive onto thin ice and submerge.

The driver, 83-year-old Thomas Lee, was heading to his son-in-law’s fishing shack, but made the mistake of driving across the lake under the bridge, as ice formation under structures tends to be thinner due to heat absorption.

Salmon was watching a snowmobile race when the Jeep broke through the ice, and rushed over while he was on the phone with 911 and calling for others nearby to aid him.

The teen football player, wrestler, and track star stripped off his fishing gear and signaled for Lee to get out of the Jeep, but he was unable to get out of the locked doors and closed windows.

“I took one step and (the water) went to about my chest,” he said to the Des Moines Register.

“I got on the bumper of the rear and tried opening the back door, but all the windows were locked, but one guy gave me a knife and I hit the back glass a couple of times.”

He climbed up on the car’s back bumper and managed to break into the back window with the utility knife provided by one of the four other men that stood at the ice’s edge to help Lee.

Salmon shimmied in through the back window and emerged with Lee’s golden doodle, Cooper. He tossed the dog towards the waiting men, who pulled the pup to safety after he briefly hit the water.

“I didn’t really think about why or anything,” Salmon told The Washington Post. 

“I wanted to make sure he was going to be okay — to get him out. A full-size car going there, I knew it wasn’t going to end well.”

Salmon entered the Jeep again and climbed up to the front seat, where he had to free Lee’s foot from between a seat and the center console.

As the water level rose swiftly and Lee became stuck again, the quick thinking teenager folded down the seats and dragged him to the back, where another man was waiting in the water to pull him out.

Lee was yanked out of the water by the bystanders, while Salmon climbed to the top of the car to leapt back to safety himself.

After Lee was out of the water, he and the other men were guided to a nearby store, where they were able to dry off and get warm.

Lee was transported to a local hospital, but neither he or Cooper sustained any injuries from the incident. The same can not be said for the Jeep, which was pulled out of the lake the next day.

“I’m happy that he was OK and the dog was OK,” Salmon said about the ordeal. “It was just crazy at the time.”

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