BUTLER — Fast action can mean the difference between life and death.

On Sunday, Feb. 16, Eastside sophomore Whittney Pfefferkorn, 16, woke up to her dogs barking when she thought she heard someone yelling.

The daughter of Nathan and Alecia Pfefferkorn, Whittney learned her neighbor, Tom Stackhouse, had fallen through the ice in his pond. Pfefferkorn, 16, called her father, who called 9-1-1.

“I was home alone sleeping and I heard my dogs barking and heard somebody yelling, but I wasn’t sure where it was coming from or what they were saying.

“I went downstairs and could hear it more clearly; it sounded like someone was saying ‘Help me, I need help.’

“I stepped outside to make sure that was exactly what they were saying,” she said. “I called my dad and told him I think someone needs help and I don’t know what to do.

“He told me, ‘You need to look in the ice to see if someone fell through,’ and I did and saw that someone fell through in my neighbor’s pond.

“He passed the phone off to my mom, and she told me to get on my boots and go outside to see if I could do anything to help.”

With her parents in Fort Wayne, Whittney trudged down to the pond where she saw Stackhouse in the water. “I asked him if he was OK. He said he was doing fine, but asked if anyone had called 9-1-1. Seconds later, we heard sirens going off.”

Initial rescue efforts included attempting to throw a rope to Stackhouse in the ice, but Pfefferkorn said more emergency personnel in protective suits crawled onto the ice to retrieve him.

“When they did get (the rope) to him and they started pulling, he couldn’t get his legs over the ice because it kept breaking,” Pfefferkorn said.

Once he was able to get out of the water, Stackhouse was able to walk to his house and to the ambulance.

While she wasn’t really acquainted with Stackhouse, Whittney, her brother and parents all had his wife as a teacher at Hamilton High School.

“It didn’t really hit me until it was all over,” Pfefferkorn said. That day, she explained there supposed to be practice for a student-faculty volleyball game to be played later in the week, “but it got canceled.

“If practice wouldn’t have been canceled, I wouldn’t have been home,” she said. “I’m glad I could be there.”

Pfefferkorn received flowers, chocolates and balloons from the Stackhouses with a card proclaiming, “Whittney, you are our hero.”

Pfefferkorn also believes there was divine intervention.

“I believe in God, and I think He had a plan for me to be home so I could help him,” she said. “If I hadn’t heard him, things could have been different.”

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