Passers-by rescue ice angler

BAZETTA – Don Hromyak thought he was a goner when he fell through the ice Tuesday on Mosquito Creek Reservoir.

“It was pretty sickening,” Hromyak said, “especially when you can see the cars going by.”

Hromyak, 55, of Niles, had been out for an afternoon of ice fishing when the ice cracked beneath his feet. He was about 100 yards from the eastern shore near Hillside Cemetery when he dropped into the frigid water.

Any ice angler will say that the cardinal rule of ice fishing is always go with a friend, but it was advice Hromyak didn’t heed.

“Like a dummy, I went out by myself,” Hromyak said Thursday.

Flailing his arms and calling for help, Hromyak was unable to pull himself from the water. He was close enough to the road to see cars passing but couldn’t get noticed.

“I’ve been telling people it was 10 minutes,” Hromyak said, “if it wasn’t more.”

Then came the men that he referred to as angels. First was James Baugh of Niles.

“And then one guy from the road saw me,” Hromyak said.

Baugh had been driving toward the cemetery when he spotted a sled and fishing equipment on the reservoir, but no fisherman. When he pulled over near a pickup truck, he could see Hromyak waving his arm.

Baugh called 9-1-1 to report what had happened, but didn’t wait for the emergency crews to arrive before acting.

“Somebody had to save his life. It’s just what I do,” Baugh said. “The lady on 9-1-1 didn’t want me to.”

Meanwhile, Rod Schaaf, 36, and his stepson Curtis Byers, 19, both from Rootstown also spotted trouble.

“First we drove by,” Schaaf said. “I saw a sled on the lake and I asked Curtis if we should drive back. He said, ‘You gotta.'”

The men turned around to find Baugh on the phone with dispatch. Schaaf said after that 36 years of fishing and being on the ice, he felt prepared to help get Hromyak out. Together the three men used a 20-foot tow rope that Schaaf had in his vehicle to pull Hromyak to safety.

The Cortland Fire Department arrived first to attend to Hromyak, who by this time was being walked back across the ice by Baugh. Bazetta crews also responded to the emergency call.

Hromyak said he spent a little bit of time warming up in the ambulance, but besides needing to jump in a warm bath, he was fine.

For him, what goes around comes around. Hromyak said about 15 years ago he had been on the other side of the ordeal when he rescued a man from Pyamtuning.

“I guess it was my turn,” Hromyak said.

The thickness of the the ice was not immediately available on Thursday.