Firefighters use plywood, rope to rescue children from quicksand-like mudflats

SHAKER HEIGHTS, Ohio – The fire department is warning people to stay away from mudflats at Horseshoe Lake in Shaker Heights, Ohio, after two children had to be rescued from the mud.

The fire department was called to the lake around 4:30 p.m. Monday after the kids ventured onto the mud and became stuck.

Firefighters used ropes to free a 10-year-old girl, who was stuck about 15 feet from shore. Rescuers used plywood to distribute weight along a pathway across the mud to reach a 7-year-old boy, who was in mud about 60 feet from shore. Neither child was injured.

“We've practiced for it. We had everything we needed,” said Chief Patrick Sweeney, noting the department prepared for this sort of rescue and had plywood stockpiled. “These kids, they stayed calm, which really helped us out a lot. Didn't make the situation more stressful.”

The muddy lake bottom was exposed after the Ohio Department of Natural Resources ordered Shaker Heights to lower the water level by 3 feet last month due to concerns about the structural integrity of the lake’s dam. The city said repairs to the dam could take two years.

“Parents really need to keep an eye on their kids and know that we've got this situation going on right now,” Sweeney said.

He said the city plans to add more fencing and signage warning people to stay clear of the mud, which is more dangerous than it appears and acts like quicksand.

“It'll really suck you in there, so you could just find yourself in a situation where you can't move, you can't go anywhere,” Sweeney said.

He said the additional fencing and signage could go up as soon as this week.