HARRIMAN (WATE) - A Roane County teenager says he's lucky to be alive after falling through the ice at a lake near his house.
Leaf Clark was celebrating his 14th birthday with his friends Saturday afternoon when they decided to walk on ice on the Little Emory River, which is part of Watts Bar Lake. Two of his friends fell in first.
"I guess they stepped on an air bubble in the water, and they were near a buoy where the ice wasn't all the way around it," Clark said.
He tried to save them.
"They went to the buoy and right before I was going to grab one of their hands, I fell in with them. My cousin tried to grab my hand. I was swimming toward him. The ice just kept breaking and breaking," Clark said.
That's when his cousin ran to get help.
"All three of us were on a buoy. We were just holding for dear life and praying," Clark said.
They stayed in 35 degree water, clinging to the buoy, for nearly an hour and a half.
"My friend kept screaming. He was wasting his heat and energy. And he was getting cold," Clark said.
Clark's pastor, Neil Crass, arrived on the scene with his boat.
"If you could imagine your child just 75, 50 yards away from you, and watching them cling to life to this buoy was really heart wrenching," Crass said.
Crass and his son were able to break through the ice and rescue the boys.
"When we first got to them, they had no response. They just had this blank look in their eyes of just great fear," Crass said.
The boys were immediately flown to UT Medical Center. They were discharged on Sunday.
"I believe God was with us and I can feel him in my heart. I'm going to get baptized pretty soon. I feel saved," Clark said, adding he really appreciates the prayers and everyone who helped bring them to safety.
He says he will stay away from ice from now on. Other than a little numbness, Clark says they are all feeling much better today and should be back in school tomorrow.
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