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Deer rescued from frigid river; New air boat passes the test

This deer was rescued on January 5 after falling through the ice into the Upper Delaware River.
Contributed photo by Travis Steimle

By Fritz Mayer
January 9, 2013

The picture of the deer in the back of the ambulance went viral on Facebook, and the tale is sure to go down in the annals of local rescue lore.

On January 5, the Lumberland Fire Department was dispatched in response to a call that an animal had fallen through the ice in the Upper Delaware River near the Pond Eddy Bridge. Fire chief Eric Robles and a crew went to the scene to check out the situation.

Another crew manned the new Diamondback Airboat, which the department had taken possession of in October 2012. Ann Schulte Steimle, president of the department, said they rocked the airboat off the trailer onto the snow, gunned the motor and took off, moving from land to water. The responders traveled north about four miles until the dear was located. It was a young doe, alive, but trapped in a two-foot hole surrounded by ice.

Ann wrote in a Facebook account of the rescue, “Bosco Hunt drove the boat, while James Steimle and Ann Schulte Steimle executed the rescue with a lasso and a plan. James and Ann grabbed the deer and hauled her on board while Hunt held the boat steady.”

Ann, who has a lot of experience with wildlife, said, “I was laying the deer on the floor of the boat because I knew the hooves could be deadly.” She also said she needed to keep the doe calm. When they got to shore, the doe did not get up on her own, so she was put into a stokes basket to be transported back to the firehouse.

She said, “They had the heat on high, and they rubbed her down with dry towels. By the time they got to the firehouse, she was ready to go. They opened up the back doors and she got herself up and out.”

The Diamondback Airboat is the second one the department has owned. The first one was not really powerful enough for the river; but the new one surpassed expectations. “We were thrilled. We had put a lot of research into this Diamondback Airboat, we had put a lot of training into it, we had the guys that sold it to us come up from Florida and train our pilots. It did everything we wanted it to do plus more. The thing was steady as a rock. I’ve been on many, many rescues and recoveries on the Delaware myself, and I never felt like I was in any kind of danger; it was incredible.”