A leisurely walk Sunday along Long Point Wildlife Refuge adjacent to Tisbury Great Pond turned treacherous for a Vineyard Haven man after he fell through the ice and nearly drowned in freezing waters while trying to save his two dogs from a similar fate.
For Wesley Nagy, a popular Island musician, it will be a Sunday stroll he will not soon forget.
One minute he was walking along the shore of the pond with his wife Lisa and two dogs. The next he was struggling to survive in icy waters.
Then, minutes later, at least 30 rescue workers were on the shore struggling to pull him to safety.
"It makes you thankful that I live in a place like Martha's Vineyard," Mr. Nagy said while recovering at home on Wednesday. "One minute I'm out there in the freezing water with nobody is around. And then suddenly all these people are there risking their lives to save me."
Mr. Nagy and his wife had visited friends at the Red Pony Farm riding stable and were walking their two dogs - a 140-pound Siberian husky and shepherd mix named Buster and a 120-pound black Labrador named Julius - when they decided to take them off the leash and let them run free.
Almost instantly, the two pooches spotted a flock of sea ducks perched on the frozen lip of the pond and gave chase. Although the ice was solid close to the shore, it thinned farther out, and the two dogs slid to the edge and fell right in.
"They didn't take long to get in trouble," Mr. Wesley said with a mix of frustration and affection.
Mrs. Nagy went back to the couple's car to try and find help, leaving Mr. Nagy to watch over the two hapless pups who were yelping and whining in confusion. At one point, he said, they stopped struggling and stared at him as if trying to relay a message.
"It's like they were saying: ‘C'mon Wes, we need your help here, buddy," Mr. Nagy said.
Mr. Nagy then found two boards and used them to slide himself about 200 feet onto the ice close to his dogs. He managed to get his hands around Buster, but when he tried to pull the dog onto the ice, he too fell into the freezing water.
"My first reaction was, ‘Damn, this water is cold.' And then I was just mad at myself for putting myself into that position," he said.
Meanwhile, Mrs. Nagy got to the couple's car and drove to the nearby home of electrician Joe DiNallo, who called 911 and had her explain the situation to the dispatcher. She then drove back to the Red Pony riding stable to recruit more help.
At the time, she thought she was organizing a rescue a mission for two dogs, having no idea her husband had also fallen into the icy waters.
Around the same time, Oak Bluffs residents Alex and Jen Adams Hurd were walking near the pond when they heard someone calling for help. When they got closer to the pond they saw Mr. Nagy struggling in the water.
Mr. Hurd then ran toward the water to help, while Ms. Hurd ran to the nearby Trustees garage, where she found a CB radio and called emergency responders.
It was then that emergency personnel first learned that Mr. Nagy had fallen into the water, and an alert went out to West Tisbury firefighters and Tri-Town ambulance workers for immediate assistance.
While waiting, Mr. Hurd left the edge of the pond and ran to the Trustees barn, where he found a surfboard which belonged to the property superintendent. He brought the board down to pond's edge in hopes of using it as a makeshift rescue sled.
Just as Mr. Hurd started to slide onto the ice on the board, officers from the West Tisbury police department arrived and called him back onto the shore. Around the same time, members of the West Tisbury fire department rescue team arrived on the scene.
Diver Jesse Oliver tied a rope around his own body, and with the assistance of Vincent Maciel took Mr. Hurd's surfboard and went out to help Mr. Nagy.
Diver Greg Pachico then used a special rescue sled and went out on the ice to secure Mr. Nagy. The rescue workers were first able to get the two dogs out of the ice, although the concerned canines proved problematic because they refused to leave Mr. Nagy's side.
After some strong words of encouragement from both Mr. Nagy and the rescue workers on the shore, the dogs finally got off the ice, and Mr. Nagy was able to get one of his hands through the rung of the sled and the workers were able to tow him to shore.
Mr. Nagy was transported to Martha's Vineyard Hospital where he was fitted with an arterial line and covered with electrical blankets. Doctors were able to stabilize his body temperature at 96 degrees, and he then was airlifted to Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston.
Meanwhile, his two dogs also were recovering.
Doctors later told Mr. Nagy the cold water caused him to have a minor heart attack. As of Wednesday, he still had numbness in his toes and hands, although he said the prognosis is for a full recovery, he said.
Mr. Nagy said he looks forward to regaining full feeling in his hands so he can return as organist at the Grace Episcopal church in Vineyard Haven.
All things considered, Mr. Nagy said he was lucky. He was grateful so many people helped save him and his two dogs.
"I cannot thank everyone enough for their help. It's humbling to have so many people willing to risk their lives for you," he said.
As for Buster and Julius, Mr. Nagy said steps will be taken to prevent the need for future rescues.
"They will be must better educated about the rules of going out on the ice," he said, adding: "But they're still our babies."