ROANE COUNTY, Tenn. — A Tennessee pastor is thanking God after he and his son rescued three children from an icy lake this past weekend.
Pastor Neil Crass of Big Emory Church in Roane County had just returned home when he was alerted that there was an emergency at Watts Bar Lake that required his intervention. Crass owns a boat and would be able to row out to the children and help pull them out of the water.
The children, ages 12-14 and all boys, had been attending a birthday party when some of the attendees decided to go fishing at the lake. According to reports, two of the boys ventured out onto the ice while the other children watched from shore.
However, when the boys fell in, the children ran to a neighbor’s house from help and called 911. A neighbor also called Crass’ house as they knew he had a boat. In the meantime, a third child fell in the water as he attempted to rescue his friends.
Rescue workers arrived and attempted to reach the three youth, but were unsuccessful because of the depth of the ice.
“We don’t have the equipment to do that,” David Barnam with the Roane County Rescue Squad told local television station WATE. “It was a makeshift to do what we could to get there and bust the ice to try to get the boats to float.”
However, Crass soon also appeared on the scene with his boat, bringing his son Hunter with him. The shape of Crass’ boat was just right to help break through the ice.
“I knew we would [need to] get the boat in the water,” he told CBS Atlanta. “And just get in there as fast as possible and get out there and make sure they were safe.”
Crass and his son had to break through the freezing lake in several spots in order to row out to the children. He told reporters that the boys were clinging for their lives to a buoy.
“You can see a lot of people panicking and you can see the boys about 75 yards into the river,” he described the atmosphere upon arrival.
Crass was able to make his way to the children, and he and his son grabbed ahold of the youth and lifted them into the boat. They also took off their clothes and wrapped them around the boys, who were estimated to have spent an hour in the icy water.
“Hunter grabbed one young man, Hunter grabbed another by himself, and I grabbed one by myself,” he stated. “We immediately started taking our clothes off and wrapping them around them. That’s when they broke down and began to scream, and I don’t know if it was relief or what.”
The boys were then transported UT Medical Center, where one was listed in serious condition and two in stable condition. They were released on Sunday to their parents.
Crass is now crediting God for putting him in the right place at the right time to help save the lives of the children.
“We thank God we were able to take part in it, and how everything was so synchronized,” he said. “God pulled those things together.”