- Grove City, Pennsylvania

April 6, 2012

Tragic drowning won't be in vain, thanks to efforts

The Herald

MERCER COUNTY — Many of us were saddened recently by the tragic story of the puppy Callahan, who drowned in the Shenango River Lake after falling through thin ice.

Despite efforts to save the brave pup who battled valiantly, treading water for 45 minutes, his owner Tim Vesonder of Hermitage and would-be rescuers lacked the means to save him.

That's why it was inspiring to see a front page story in The Herald last Tuesday that outlined plans to acquire equipment to save not only animals, but people who might find themselves in the same situation as Callahan.

People have fallen through the ice in the lake before and there has been at least one death.

Since his puppy's demise about seven weeks ago, Vesonder has been actively meeting with emergency officials and determining what type of equipment is required for water rescues, especially in winter conditions.

He has had a series of meetings with John Kolodziejski, resource manager for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Vesonder's efforts have produced results. Representatives of at least six area fire departments are working to create a water rescue team. The team would coordinate equipment and training.

But while the departments have firefighters who are willing to participate, there is one main problem: Lack of proper equipment.

Because of that, Vesonder is working to create "The Callahan Fund." All donations to the fund would pay for equipment and training for responders for water rescues.

Besides the basics such as diving suits, throw bags with ropes and a life-saving ring, one of the goals is to buy a hovercraft, an expensive, but very important tool for rescue, especially in icy conditions.

Mark Hoffman, chief of the South Pymatuning Township Volunteer Fire Department, has been working with others to acquire equipment and said there have been donations already - including a pair of giant inflatable rafts from Nebulus Co.

Another company discounted a pair of cold water suits.

The fundraising continues and we applaud the efforts of Vesonder and officials who are working to improve safety at Shenango River Lake.

While the death of Callahan was certainly tragic, because of the efforts by this group, it won't be in vain.

Published March 21, 2012, in Allied News. Pick up a copy at 201 A Erie St., Grove City.