Bicyclist called hero for saving 12-year-old in pond in Hanover

A 58-year-old man bicycling by a pond in Hanover heard a girl who had fallen through the ice calling for help and went into the frigid water to save her, Fire Chief Jeffrey Blanchard said.

Richard Cullen, of Scituate, was riding by Forge Pond on Thursday when he heard the 12-year-old girl screaming for help. Initially disregarding the cries, Cullen turned back to see a break in the ice and the Hanover girl’s head poking out, Blanchard said.

Cullen flagged down a car and told the driver to call police. He then grabbed a stick and waded into the pond, breaking the thin ice with his hands. When he reached the girl, whose head had gone underwater, he stood on the bottom and pushed her up so she could breathe, according to Blanchard. The water in the area is 8 to 10 feet deep, the Fire Department said.

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Cullen brought Chloe, whose last name was withheld, back toward shore, where two other passersby — Russ Reynolds of Marshfield and Ross Ferguson of Hanover — helped pull them out.

By the time fire officials responded, three minutes after the call came in at 3:30 p.m., all four were on shore, responsive and walking around, Blanchard said. Ambulances took in Cullen and the girl to warm them.

Rescue workers took the girl to South Shore Hospital in Weymouth for treatment of hypothermia. He refused treatment.

Blanchard noted that Cullen took the important safety step of letting people know before he ventured out onto the ice.

“It worked out well,” Blanchard said. “He [Cullen] said his initial concern was that he would be out there with her [in the water] and no one would know.”

Blanchard said this has been the department’s only instance of someone falling through the ice this winter, though the department had conducted ice rescue training on another nearby pond the day before.

Despite the region’s cold temperatures during the past couple of weeks, Blanchard advised people to avoid going onto ice-covered ponds or rivers.

“Areas of the ice can be very thin, even though the edge is very thick,” Blanchard said. “We never tell someone that the ice is safe to go on.”