Berlin - More than 50 firefighters using diving gear and drones on Wednesday rescued a man who had disappeared beneath the ice in a pond at Treptower Park.

The 43-year-old victim, who was swimming with three acquaintences aged 55, 44 and 21, was alive when pulled from the pond about two-and-a-half hours after rescue personnel arrived early Wednesday but his condition was unclear Wednesday afternoon.

"He still has a pulse," rescue personnel yelled as they loaded the man, clad in just swimwear, into an ambulance at about 11.25am for transport to Virchow hospital in Wedding for treatment. 

According to witnesses, the man failed to resurface after attempting to swim from one hole in the ice to the next. 

We can only urge people who want to go ice bathing to contact clubs

As rescue personnel searched for the man, his friends huddled in a nearby ambulance in blankets. A chaplain provided support to the men as well as relatives. 

While divers searched the water Wednesday morning, about a dozen police officers secured the scene. A drone was used to provide thermal imagery and other firefighters sawed open the ice from a rescue boat.

Resuscitation is possible up to six hours after such an accident, an emergency physician said.

Shortly after pulling the man ashore, the firefighters had to rush to the next call – witnesses had reported that a person had collapsed in the Krumme Lanke lake in Zehlendorf. The call turned out to be a false alarm. It was an ice-swimmer who wanted to enjoy the beautiful winter weather.

Photo:  Morris Pudwell
Moments after the rescue.

"The big problem is: when you break into the ice, your muscles slacken incredibly quickly, you can't move after just a few minutes," explained fire department spokesman Dominik Preetz at the Treptower Park scene, "the situation can become dramatic and life-threatening even in shallow water."

Swimming in icy waters has become trendy but hasn't yet led to increased calls for emergency personnel.

"We can only urge people who want to go ice bathing to contact clubs," says Preetz. "There are official bathing spots with ice ladders. Do not enter a lake or pond at your own risk."

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