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Three Chicopee men recovering after falling through ice in Belchertown

— The three Chicopee men who fell through thin ice on Metacomet Lake Wednesday and the firefighter who aided in their rescue were all released from area hospitals following the accident.

George Hollister, 61, and Paul Caban, 67, were both treated and released from Baystate Medical Center and Donald Oberlander, 62, was treated and released from Cooley Dickinson Hospital. Two of the three — police did not know which — were in the frigid water for between 30 and 40 minutes.

Belchertown Firefighter Josh Miller was also treated for cold exposure and released from Cooley Dickinson Hospital after he was in the water rescuing two of the three victims.

Belchertown Police Officer John Raymer said the two men who fell in about 75 feet from shore seemed in danger of drowning when they were rescued Wednesday around 1:30 p.m. The 911 call came from the third ice fisherman, who had fallen through the ice closer to shore and was able to get to land.

Firefighters were responding to a reported gas leak across town, so police officers Raymer and Valerie Cote were the first on scene. They obtained a canoe from a resident, Raymer said, and he briefly had to jump in the cold water to push the boat onto the ice before they could get to the victims. “We got to one of the men and were able to hold him under his arms to keep him above water,” Raymer said. “They were both saying, ‘If you don’t get us quick, we’re going to go under.’” The second man was about 20 feet away, Raymer said. Miller swam out and rescued him, first, and Raymer and Cote kept the other man’s head above water until Miller arrived to pull him onto an ice rescue sled.

Workman also said that this late in the spring, its likely that ice is not safe. On Thursday, two high school boys fell through Nashawannuck Pond in Easthampton, but they were able to get to shore safely. They were treated at Cooley Dickinson but were expected to be fine, said Easthampton Fire Chief David A. Mottor.

Rebecca Everett can be reached at reverett@gazettenet.com.

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