12-year-old girl and her dog at center of Jefferson river rescue

A 12-year-old girl fell through thin ice while walking her dog in Jefferson on Tuesday night, March 2. 

The Jefferson Fire Department chief said the girl is very lucky that people saw her go into the water and called 911.

The Rock River is a place that can be both beautiful -- and bitter. It proved to be the latter on Tuesday evening.

"The Rock River is very unforgiving," said Chief Ron Wegner. "It's very fast, and it's very cold."

Just as the sun started to set in Jefferson, a walk turned scary when the ice the 12-year-old and her dog stepped on cracked beneath them. They both fell into the water.

"I was back here behind the bar and a lady came out screaming," said Matt Fay with Heron's Landing.

Capsized canoe involved in rescue attempt seen on Rock River in Jefferson

People from the restaurant ran to help. Two good Samaritans grabbed a nearby canoe and tried to pull the girl from the frigid water.

Fay called 911 and watched from the water's edge.

"She was pretty frightened, panicked," May said.

When first responders arrived, the canoe had capsized; officials quickly jumped into action.

Rock River in Jefferson

"When I arrived there was one man still in the water, the young lady was on the ice and the other gentleman was also laying out on the ice," Wegner said.

Rescue crews were able to pull all three people and the dog from the water with throw bags and harnesses. It's a situation, Wegner said, that could have ended differently.

"Could’ve been some catastrophic events last night," said Wegner. "Very easily could’ve had three individuals that we would’ve been diving for."

It's a fortunate outcome that comes with a warning about the dangers that are sometimes not easily seen from the surface.

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"Stay off the ice. Everyone thinks that the ice is still good -- it’s not," Wegner said.

The girl was taken to the hospital to be checked out and is expected to be OK.

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