Canadian firefighters and emergency crews risked their lives over the weekend to rescue 10 horses lodged helplessly in a frozen pond.
The animals wandered onto some thin ice near the community of Hythe in northern Alberta on Easter Sunday, and plunged into the frigid slough.
Photographer William Vavrek captured the amazing response in photos and on video.
— William Vavrek (@williamvavrek) April 17, 2017
The highway was closed.
Some 35 firefighters from surrounding communities as well as a Technical Search and Rescue from Grande Prairie, about 65 kilometres away, used chainsaws and ropes to carefully extricate the horses.
The rescue was no easy feat.
Workers were tethered to ropes, walked gingerly across the ice or used floatation devices, otherwise risked also becoming stuck under ice in the dugout.
“County of Grande Prairie firefighters from La Glace used their specialized training in large animal rescue last night to try to save several horses that had fallen through ice on a pond,” the municipality posted in an update on Facebook on Monday afternoon.
The effort took hours.
The horses struggled to keep their heads above the surface as crews worked as quickly as they could.
They cut paths through the ice to shore. Some of the animals were able to walk out on their own; others were hauled out with ropes and slings.
When it was over, seven of the animals survived.
“Unfortunately, three of 10 the animals succumbed to their injuries,” the county said. “two from exhaustion and one from injuries from other horses.”
Photos William Vavrek/YouTube