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Names of men in water released

Sergeant jumps in icy pond in dramatic rescue of drowning man

By Stephen Betts | Feb 02, 2020
Photo by: Knox County Sheriff's Office Sgt. Arthur Smith

Warren — A Knox County Sheriff sergeant is being hailed as a hero after jumping into icy Crawford Pond Saturday night to rescue a man who had fallen through the ice.

"I am extremely proud of Sgt. (Arthur) Smith's dedication to serving the people of Knox County and true heroism while putting his own life in danger," Sheriff Tim Carroll said Sunday morning.

"Two men are alive today due to the actions of Sgt. Davis and the other first responders," the sheriff said.

Two men had fallen through the ice. The two men were Craig Dennison, 38, of Warren and Donald Holbrook, 28, of Warren. Holbrook was initially listed Sunday in critical condition and transferred to Maine Medical Center in Portland. His condition had improved by Sunday afternoon.

Dennison was initially hospitalized at Pen Bay Medical Center in Rockport but was released Sunday and is at home.

The two men were on a side-by-side all-terrain vehicle owned and operated by Dennison when it went through the ice about 100 yards from shore.

Knox County Regional Communications Center notified Knox County Sheriff’s Office deputies at 9:45 p.m. Feb. 1 that people living around the pond were hearing someone screaming for help on Crawford Pond in Warren. As Sgt. Smith and Deputy Timothy Davis were responding, dispatch notified them that two men were in the water.

Sheriff Carroll said that Smith arrived 10 minutes after the first call was received.

Upon arrival, Sgt. Smith grabbed his throw rope and went out on the ice to where he could see open water. As he got closer he could see two men obviously having a hard time staying afloat. Sgt. Smith stated that one was having a harder time than the other.

Sgt. Smith threw the rope to the one who seemed to be having the most difficulty first. That man was unable to get the rope around his torso in order to pull him out. The other man in the water attempted to assist him, but had to clear himself for his own safety. That man was able to be pulled from the water.

Sgt. Smith could see that the remaining man was having severe distress and was unable to hold onto the rope or the edge of the ice. Sgt. Smith observed him going under water and made the decision to go in the water to save him.

At a Sunday news conference at the Sheriff's Office in Rockland, Sgt. Smith said he removed his duty belt and ballistic vest and went in the water. He attempted to get the rope around him that was being held by others on solid ice.

The sheriff pointed out that a common problem in ice rescues is the victim’s sense of danger is imminent and panic sets in and it becomes more difficult to help someone. Sgt. Smith was attempting many ways to save the man in distress.

At one point the ice broke free from what Sgt. Smith was also holding onto. Sgt. Smith was able to keep composure and still hold the victim from submersing. Sgt. Smith was fighting to keep them both afloat at this time. He was able to get to more solid ice again and hold the victim.

Sgt. Smith was holding the ice by his arms and able to keep the victims head above water with his legs. After several minutes of keeping the victim afloat while in cold water, emergency medical technician Kevin Curry joined Sgt. Smith at the edge of the ice to help.

Together they were still unable to control the victim enough to get him out of the water. A rescue swimmer from Union Fire and Rescue arrived with a life-saving wet suit and jumped in to assist. The three of them were then able to be pulled onto the ice by other first responders.

Both victims were immediately taken to Pen Bay Medical Center in Rockport. Sgt. Smith was later checked and cleared at the hospital as a precautionary measure.

Sgt. Smith said he had received basic emergency medical tech training as well as firefighting training years ago when he worked for the Rockport Police Deparment. That included cold water rescue training. He said he was also a strong swimmer.

The officer said he never thought twice about going in the water for two men he had never met and said he did not even feel the cold when he went in. He said he realized how cold he was when he got out of the water.

He estimated he was in the water for 10 to 15 minutes.

The officer said, after being debriefed following the rescue, the one thing he would have done differently would have been to tie the rescue line to himself. The line has not fastened to him but he had held on to it by wrapping it around his hand.

Assisting the Sheriff’s Office at the scene was State Police Corporal Jeremiah Wesbrock, Maine Warden Service Sgt. Cross and Warden Dyer, as well as members of Warren Fire and Ambulance and Union Fire and EMS.

All agencies were a coordinated effort by the Knox County Regional Communications Center.

“Ice conditions along the coast are hazardous in some areas. With the warmer weather, some areas that are normally frozen this time of year may not be. Please be sure to check the thickness of the ice before heading out,” said Sgt. Aaron Cross of the Maine Warden Service.

Cross attended the news conference and said the ATV will be recovered from the pond. The two men who fell through the ice had been fishing on the pond earlier in the day.

The investigation into the accident is being handled by the Maine Warden Service.

The sergeant joined the Knox department in 2013. Before that he worked for the Waldo County Sheriff's Office, Camden and earlier Rockport.

Knox County Sheriff Press Conference
Knox County Sheriff's Office held a press conference Sunday following the rescue of two men on Crawford Pond Saturday night.
The location where two men on an ATV went through the ice on Crawford Pond in Warren. (Photo by: Maine Inland Fisheries and Wildlife)
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Comments (16)
Posted by: Peter Root | Feb 04, 2020 10:13

Great story with a good ending. Great job Sgt. Smith

Posted by: Nancy Harmon Jenkins | Feb 03, 2020 18:12

Let's not forget the real FIRST responders--Isabel, Isadora and Jerin, who let the authorities know of this accident. Here's what Amanda Beal, who lies on Crawford Pond (and who is our state ag commissioner) said on Facebook: "I also must say how impressed I was with the three young people, Jerin, Isabel, and Isadora, who handled the initial stages of this rescue so well. They were calm and collected and did all the right things in a very intense situation." Kudos to these young people too!

Nancy Jenkins

Posted by: SWAN HOUSE | Feb 02, 2020 20:24

Excellent job Sgt. Smith and everyone who was involved in the rescue. It's great to read a story in the news like this one that has a happy ending. We are very fortunate to have such dedicated first responders in our area.

Posted by: SUZANNE WINTERS | Feb 02, 2020 18:08

Great job Sgt. Smith.  A true hero.

Posted by: LEE C MACFARLAND | Feb 02, 2020 16:44

AWESOME!  Kudos to all the first responders!!

So glad this story had a happy ending.

Fran MacFarland

Posted by: LEE C MACFARLAND | Feb 02, 2020 16:36

AWESOME!!  Kudos to all the first responders!  So glad this story has a happy ending.  Most of these icy water rescues don’t.


Posted by: Alan Benner | Feb 02, 2020 13:41

Thanks to all involved in the rescue of Craig Dennison and Donald Holbrook last night.  My prayers go out to Holbrook and his family for a speedy recovery.  Special thanks to Sargent Smith, Kevin Curry and the diver from the Union Fire and Rescue for risking their own lives to save these men.  I am so grateful, as a citizen of Knox County since 1992, for the men and women who serve as members of the police force, ambulance, fire departments and EMT's.  Stay safe!  Louise Benner


Posted by: Alan Benner | Feb 02, 2020 13:40

Thanks to all involved in the rescue of Craig Dennison and Donald Holbrook last night.  My prayers go out to Holbrook and his family for a speedy recovery.  Special thanks to Sargent Smith, Kevin Curry and the diver from the Union Fire and Rescue for risking their own lives to save these men.  I am so grateful, as a citizen of Knox County since 1992, for the men and women who serve as members of the police force, ambulance, fire departments and EMT's.  Stay safe!


Posted by: Steven D Bryant | Feb 02, 2020 13:01

I have watched Arthur grow up a man of true integrity since his middle school days. Coming from an awesome family,  his father a former Massachusetts State Trooper I would expect nothing less from this young man. Thank you for all your service to our community.

Posted by: Cynthia Mary Anderson | Feb 02, 2020 12:31

God Bless you, Sgt. Smith.  So glad you all made it out alive.  I am praying for everyone's recovery, and thank you so very much for giving this man a chance to live.  Wow.  Makes my heart feel good to hear a hero's story, especially with so much negativity going around these days.  Thank you so much for all you've done.

Posted by: Melissa Byer | Feb 02, 2020 10:42

Arthur Smith has always been one of the good cops. Doing his job with respect kindness and compassion. Great Job!

Posted by: Richard McKusic, Sr. | Feb 02, 2020 10:21

He just did it. Without thinking of himself he did the next right thing. A true hero and a man of integrity. Don't know about you, but I need to see more of that.  They are out there and that is who we need to  keep our focus on!!

Posted by: Sumner Kinney | Feb 02, 2020 09:36

Great job Sgt Smith.  A hero indeed!


Posted by: Bethany Rebekah Boivin | Feb 02, 2020 09:35

Good job Junior and Kevin!!!! Not surprised at all to hear that either of you went above and beyond as that is exactly the kind of men you both are and always have been. The victims were lucky to have you there.

Posted by: Debra Damon | Feb 02, 2020 09:13

Great job Arthur Smith, you have gone above and beyond your duties to see that these two individuals lived. You deserve the upmost commendation that can be given. You have always been nice anytime I have seen you, and you always asked me how Makayla was doing. Keep up the Good Job Sargent Smith!

Posted by: Anne Wunderli | Feb 02, 2020 08:54

Brave, indeed. Thank you, Sgt. Smith. I hope the men recover.


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