Two ice fishermen were honored by State Senator Lisa Baker and Rep. Mike Peifer, March 14, for saving two people who had fallen in the icy waters of Lake Wallenpaupack.

PALMYRA TWP. (Pike) - Two ice fishermen were honored by State Senator Lisa Baker and Rep. Mike Peifer, March 14, for saving two people who had fallen in the icy waters of Lake Wallenpaupack.

They gathered at the Senator’s field office overlooking the same lake, which a month and a half before was largely well frozen and capable of holding the legion of ice anglers and snowmobile enthusiasts enjoying a cold but sunny winter day. On Saturday February 2, two of those snowmobilers were in trouble when they came upon a gap in the ice near Epply Island.

It was nearly noon.

The married couple who were rescued, wishes to remain anonymous, the husband said. He attended the event where their rescuers were thanked. “It’s all about them,” he said, as he declined to be in the photograph.

Christopher Gavavaglia of Greeley, of Greeley, and Joshua Kalin, of Tafton, are fishing buddies. They were among the patient anglers who set up their gear, drilled holes in the ice, lowered lines and waited. Kalin quipped they had not done badly - that day he caught some fish, and were able to pull in two people.

Tafton Dive Team  Captain Richard Groo, and Tafton Fire Company President Gary Shephard were also present, as well as Nick Spinelli, a member of the Dive Team and director Lake Wallenpaupack Watershed Management District. The Tafton emergency responders were also recognized and thanked.

The husband said that he and his wife were taking out their pair of 22-year old snowmobiles and were going at high speed. She was on the left. He said all at once he saw the area of open water, and watched as his wife, on her machine, went right into the water.

He stopped his machine and frantically tried to reach her with a length of rope he had, but it was not long enough. She had drifted out too far and was clinging to a small piece of ice. In the process, he too had plunged into the frigid water.

Crying out for help, he said these two fishermen heard them and came to their aid. He was overflowing with thanksgiving for Gavavaglia and Kalin.

The fishermen first pulled the man out. Using their own rope, they tied it with the husband’s rope, and at one end, tied it to a snowmobile helmet. They were able to cast the helmet out to the wife, who grabbed hold and was pulled to safety.

By this time Tafton Dive Team and Tafton EMS had assembled on shore a half mile away. The wife, who was suffering from hypothermia, was transported on the other snowmobile to the ambulance personnel.

They whisked both of them off to Wayne Memorial Hospital. Because she had endured the most being in the water longer - as long as 15 to 18 minutes, the husband estimated - she was transferred to Geisinger hospital for further care.

“She was very cold, no pulse,” her husband said. “…Extremely hypothermic.”  He expressed how heart-wrenching it is to see someone you love plunge into danger. He said the experience has only brought them even closer together, and noted she is dong well.

Although the ice was thick enough in other parts of the lake for recreation, Spinelli noted that that where there is an area of open water, the ice shelf can taper from a foot down to nothing.

The undulating temperature swings that occurred this winter, with the high winds, allowed for the hole to keep growing even though it was in the teens at night, Spinelli said.

Senator Baker told the two citizen rescuers that she and Rep. Peifer are honored to recognize them as “everyday heroes” who risked their lives to save others. She said it reflects well on the community and is a “wonderful story worthy of recognition.” She and Peifer handed them official proclamations from their respective chambers in the General Assembly.

Later that same afternoon after the snowmobile incident, a group riding ATV quads hit the same area of open water. Dive Team Captain Groo said that four people were involved, and all of them got out of the water on their own. Tafton EMS also took them to the hospital.

The two ATVs, however, joined the snowmobile on the lake bed.

Out of concern over ice conditions, the Chamber of the Northern Poconos canceled the Wally Ice Fest event that was scheduled for the following weekend on Lake Wallenpaupack.