Even a week of mostly above-freezing temperatures did little to affect the scene of an accident at the Third Ward home of Jon and Jen Theisen.
Large blocks of ice remained near the side of their house, still formidable despite the warming climate. Two holes endured in the snowbank, showing the spot were the legs of their youngest son, Quinn, had been trapped. On March 13 in the early evening, a thick slab of ice fell off the roof and onto the unsuspecting 8-year-old.
“There was snow in my face, and I thought I would be stuck there forever,” said Quinn, a second-grader at Immaculate Conception in Eau Claire. “I tested it to see if I could I could get my feet out but I couldn’t. I just called out as loud as I could. I was very scared.”
So were his parents.
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Jen was washing dishes when she heard a crash that rattled the house. Jon was outside and also ran to the site. She held Quinn’s head and he joined two of his other sons — both football players who are no strangers to the weight room — to lift the block of ice off Quinn.
“(Quinn) was very panicked and said he was trapped,” said Jon, a circuit court judge. Jen publishes “5ive for Women,” a local magazine.
The family called 911 and emergency personnel helped dig Quinn out from under the debris. Jon estimates his son was trapped for a harrowing 15 minutes.
Days later, Jon and Quinn were watching the news when a story came on about a child’s near-death experience in a tornado. The piece caused Quinn to revisit his own story of escape, which could have had a far more tragic ending.
The odds of the ice launching off the house at the precise time Quinn was playing outside, and at the precise location where he was standing, were not lost on his parents. Such blocks of ice can weigh in the hundreds of pounds.
“I was kind of in shock because of how lucky we were,” Jen said.
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Statistics on falling ice aren’t easy to come by, but a Mequon-based trade group, the Snow & Ice Management Association, reports that at least 15 people in the U.S. die from falling ice each year.
In Quinn’s case, he spent much of the evening in the hospital. He suffered a concussion, bruises and a lump on the back of his head that Jen described as the size of a cantaloupe. Quinn told the doctors he’d been having conversations with God during the ordeal.
Quinn was decidedly sore the next day — Jen described her son’s aches and pains as similar to those suffered in a car accident — but did not have any internal bleeding or broken bones.
“It was just really a fluke situation,” Jen said. “But we’re so fortunate; it could have been much worse.
“He’s such a trooper.”
Quinn said he learned a valuable lesson during the experience: “I’m never going by ice again,” he said.
He was trapped more than 10 feet from the house, meaning the thick sheet of ice had significant momentum when it sailed off the roof. Falling ice did damage to the side of the Theisens’ home as well.
The family is now counting its blessings. Though safety is always a concern when you have five children, the Theisens have no plans to relocate to a more temperate area where freezing temperatures aren’t a concern.
“I’m a Wisconsin girl through and through,” Jen said. “But we will figure out how not to have ice dams. That’s been agreed upon.”
Marlaire can be reached at 715-833-9215, email@example.com or @marlaires on Twitter