March 24, 2014 at 9:11 AM ET
A pair of brothers spent nearly an hour clinging to one another while stranded on a sheet of ice in an Iowa river last week before firefighters saved them as they drifted toward a hydroelectric dam.
Corbin Crawford, 12, and his younger brother, Dylan, 7, were throwing rocks along the shore of the Des Moines River when Dylan's shoe got stuck in the mud. As he tried to pull it out to clean it off, it went flying out on the ice.
When the brothers went to retrieve the shoe, the ice broke off and they began floating down the river. A witness from the riverbank called 911, and the boys' mother, Barbara Crawford, was notified while she was at work.
"I was petrified,'' she told Savannah Guthrie live on TODAY Monday. "I got the call while I was at work, and as soon as they told me what was going on, I ran out the door. [I] barely even told anyone what I was doing, and got in my car as soon as I could. It seemed like eternity before I got there, but it was probably between five and 10 minutes, honestly."
Meanwhile, the boys were thinking the worst as they drifted toward the dam.
"Sudden death,'' is how Corbin described what was going through his mind to Guthrie on Monday. "Maybe sudden death."
During their ordeal, Corbin said Dylan was yelling, "Help us! Help us! We're going to die!"
A rescue team arrived and threw the boys rope and life jackets in case the ice gave way. After 45 minutes, firefighter Alan Angstrom was able to reach the boys by using steel picks to stab into the ice and drag himself across it. Angstrom then used ropes attached to a flat-bottomed aluminum boat to drag the boat toward himself and the boys to bring them to safety. The entire sequence was captured by a photographer from the local Fort Dodge Press.
"The river was rising,'' Angstrom told Guthrie on TODAY. "We were ready to go as soon as we got there. We got our gear on before we left the station. Thankfully, just a few weeks ago, maybe a month or so ago, we had kind of practiced some ice rescue stuff, so it was still somewhat fresh in our heads. The city has a hydroelectric damn that they were probably about 100 yards from. If something would've happened, they would've gone over through that, and it could've been a lot worse situation than it was."
The boys shared an emotional embrace with their mother and sister after being returned to dry land.
"My legs were Jell-O,'' Barbara Crawford said. "I was trying to do my best to stay calm for them so that they would stay calm, but pretty much as soon as they hit that bank and came close to me, I scooped Corbin up and both of us just stood there and cried for probably a good five minutes, and then Dylan came up and ran into the arms of his sister. We were just all glad to be back together."
The boys also learned a lesson about safety when playing near an icy river.
"Ice is bad, very bad,'' Corbin said. "The dam is bad, very bad. No one likes a dam. No one likes ice."