February 8, 2014

Former Dalton man helps rescue girl from pond

Rachel Brown

— Criminal attorney Ian Whittle, a 2004 Dalton High School graduate living in Virginia, was among a group of people who helped rescue a 6-year-old girl after she fell through some thin ice on top of a pond recently.

Whittle declined an interview, but his mother, Dalton resident Linda Whittle, said he didn’t mind information being taken off of his Facebook page where he shares his experience. There, Ian Whittle said that while in a news story a television news crew in Virginia portrayed him as the hero of the incident from a few days ago, he didn’t work alone.

“I was with my friend Laura Schinella while I was walking my dog,” Whittle writes. “I was actually a few houses up from the pond. She heard the screaming of the two kids and ran to see what was going on. Luckily, I saw her running down the path towards the pond and followed after her.”

Whittle said one girl was on the shore screaming and the other had fallen into the pond about 30 feet out. Schinella told the girl on shore to get her father, then Schinella went to the girl and helped calm her as she held on to the edge of the ice. Whittle said he hurried to catch up to the pair and saw the little girl begin to slip under.

“I ran into the lake. I fell in about 15 feet into the lake and had to break the ice and swim to get her,” Whittle said. “I was blocked by ice and couldn’t swim back. I also could not get enough leverage to get her onto the ice without it breaking. I was able to hold her high enough while treading water and getting a hand-hold in the ice.”

He said a neighbor called 911 and the first girl’s father came running up and threw an extension cord to him, first hauling in the girl, then helping Whittle make it to shore. The Spotsylvania, Va., police were on scene by the time he made it out of the water, he said. He estimated they were in the water less than five minutes.

“Without Laura hearing the screams and, amazingly, keeping a cool head, the brave girl on the shore who got her dad, her dad thinking quickly and finding something to throw to us, and the other neighbors who called 911 and helped, saving this girl might not have been possible,” he said. “Aside from the danger that a frozen pond represents, the importance of this story is that an entire neighborhood worked together to help save a little girl.”

Whittle still has several family members in Dalton. His mother works at a local bank and said her son had lived away from the area since about 2004. He is a graduate of George Mason Law School.

“I’ve always been proud of him,” she said. “I’m glad things did work out.”