Updated 12/09/13 3:39 p.m.
WILLOW SPRINGS, Ill. (CBS) — Despite the brave efforts of two fire department divers, a deer died Monday morning after it was pulled out of the icy Des Plaines River in southwest suburban Willow Springs.
Tri-State Fire Protection District Chief Jack Mancione said the 8-point buck was spotted in the river near Columbia Woods around 8:45 a.m. Emergency crews rushed to the scene, and two divers in thermal suits jumped in the water to try and free the deer from the ice.
“They made an attempt at approaching the deer. The deer turned, and swam deeper – broke through the ice, and swam deeper into the river,” he said.
Eventually, the divers got a rope around the deer and crews on shore were able to pull it out of the water.
“The problem was, we didn’t want to get too close because we were afraid of getting gored or kicked,’ said one of the divers, Tri-State Firefighter Steve Vogel.
“His head was going under water, and I thought it was going to be the last time.
“So i jumped in the water. We put a rope around his horns, and I tried to keep his head up as we guided him.”
Emergency workers wrapped the deer in a blanket and placed it in a van which took the animal to the Animal Welfare League’s shelter in Chicago Ridge.
While en route to the shelter, the deer still had a pulse, but shortly after they arrived at the shelter, the buck’s heart stopped beating.
“They raced him into surgery, worked on the deer for about 30 minutes, and could not bring the heart back,” said Animal Welfare League executive director Linda Estrada. “The hypothermia just was too much for him.”
Estrada applauded firefighters for putting their own safety at risk to save a deer.
“They did above and beyond. I mean, they risked their lives to try getting the deer; going in that water,” she said. “I’ve never seen anybody go that length, and I commend them, and I hope … I’d love to shake their hands and give them a big bear hug.”
Mancione said it was a shame the deer didn’t make it. It was unclear how long the buck had been in the frigid water before it was spotted and divers arrived to help.
“From a human perspective, we probably did everything possible for that deer that could have been done for it,” Mancione said.
Estrada said the incident serves as a reminder about the dangers of such frosty weather.
“This is something to show that – with children, with adults, with all the winter activities that go on – how deadly ice is,” she said.