7 boys step in to save Warren man trapped in ice fish shanty

Ice fisherman rescued from shanty on Lake St. Clair; suffered burn, carbon...

It could have been just another day playing in the snow and ice on Lake St. Clair for seven boys. Instead it was a day they will never forget.

Vinny Denapole, Jacob Denapole, Samuel Denapole, Kenny Hasenauer, Kalvin Hasenauer, Alex Chorazyczewski and Max Curtis were outside the Hasenauers' New Baltimore home on the lake.

They are friends, brothers and cousins who spend a lot of time together. 

On Feb. 2,  they were outside pulling a sled behind a snowmobile around dusk when Kelsey Capozzo approached them.

"She looked pretty frantic," said 14-year-old Vinny Denapole.

"She said that her boyfriend was in a shanty, in his shanty and he passed out for a couple hours," said 10-year-old Kalvin Hasenauer.

Capozzo wanted the boys to find the shanty and check on her boyfriend Eric Kaiser.

He had been ice fishing since 2 p.m. and was supposed to meet her for dinner.   He never did.   Once it was dark, Capozzo spoke to him briefly by phone after trying to call him several times.   

 "It was like a 30-second phone call, all he said was 'I'm cold.' And his voice was disoriented and so I was ,like, I knew something was wrong," said Capozzo.

After Capozzo asked them to help, Vinny Denapole hopped on the snowmobile and began heading out to the ice shanty.  Jacob Denapole ran back to the house to get additional help.  The others began running across the ice with Capozzo to the shanty.

When Vinny Denapole arrived at the shanty he asked if anybody was in there.  He said Kaiser responded, "Please help."

"His voice was slurred so I knew something was wrong. So I just tried as fast as I can to find the zipper and I found it. It was basically frozen shut so I had to pry it out," said Vinny Denapole.  

Vinny Denapole said the shanty was full of smoke, Kaiser was huddled up in a corner and he had to pull him out of the shanty.   As they were getting out Vinny Denapole stumbled and Kaiser fell on him.  

"I was pretty scared, I never been in that kind of situation before, so I didn't know what to think," said Vinny Denapole.

Soon after, everyone else arrived at the shanty. 

The boys struggled to get Kaiser onto the snowmobile so they could get him back to the house faster.   In the meantime, Ken Hasenauer, Kenny and Kalvin's father, was heading to them in a mule to help.

"I'm thinking we gotta do this fast," said 10-year-old Kalvin Hasenauer. "It looks like his body is shutting down and he can't really walk or do anything."

"You could smell (smoke). And it was like, his fishing rods were all over, and there was a giant hole and, like, he fell in it, because his boot was soaked," said 12-year-old Max Curtis.

"When I got out there the boys had Eric on the back of the snowmobile. And I looked at him and, "Eh, he was soaking wet, he is frozen. 'There was a busted hibachi (grill) there and I thought that was kind of weird. And I kind of figured he had monoxide poisoning," said Ken Hasenauer.

"I saw his hands, his hands, his fingers were black. And I saw it was really bad," said 12-year-old Jacob Denapole.

The boys told Kaiser to put his hands inside the bib of his overalls to help keep them warm.

Ken Hasenauer said Kaiser couldn't hear him or really see him. Ken Hasenauer and the boys managed to get Kaiser onto the mule and headed back to the house. 

"I got blankets, and I had her computer and I looked up what to do for hypothermia and frostbite," said 11-year-old Samuel Denapole.

Once they arrived in the house, they brought Kaiser to the fire room. They call it that because there is a wood stove inside and it is the hottest room in the house.   

"We had him sit down and wrapped him in a bunch of blankets," said Kenny Hasenauer.

The adults called 911 and two of the boys ran outside to wait for the ambulance to arrive.  In the meantime they helped him get off his wet clothes.  His boots were full of water.  They said he wouldn't stop shivering.  A neighbor who is a nurse assisted them until paramedics arrived.

"I didn't think it was that bad," said Ken Hasenauer. "He's wet and frozen solid, he'll thaw out and be OK. Then when I came back after getting his stuff and I'd seen him I thought it's a lot worse than I thought it was but we didn't know about the burn yet. And then when we saw the burn we were like 'Oh my gosh. He's got a big problem.'"

"The only thing I remember on the way to the hospital was that they didn't turn the sirens off and that's when I knew that it was trouble," said Kaiser.

Kaiser said he remembers a team of about 30 people waiting to treat him when he arrived at the hospital. Kaiser, 30, quickly learned at the hospital how close he came to dying in the ice shanty.

"The doctor said that I was five minutes away from dying. That my body temperature was about 85 1/2 or so degrees. I remember them warming me up, they said my carbon monoxide level was 29, and a harmful level is five so I knew that was pretty bad," said Kaiser.

Kaiser said he also suffered a heart attack because of the carbon monoxide poisoning.

The burn that wasn't discovered until he was inside the home turned out to be a third-degree burn on his legs. 

Kaiser is grateful for the help of the seven boys and their parents.

"If I would have died, I would have died and never known it. I thought I was just fishing and I fell asleep," said Kaiser.

The families were very concerned for Kaiser until they got the news the next day that he was OK.

"I was just really shaken up and anxious, hoping he was OK," said Vinny Denapole.

The families all got together recently and Kaiser returned to the Hasenauer home.

"They're good people. They brought me into their home and saved my life here," said Kaiser.

The boys realize that they are heroes, but are really just happy that Kaiser survived.  

"It's indescribable, you know, it's that feeling of, you know, pride that you just did something to change someone's life entirely," said Vinny

"It feels good, but the fame is less important than what you actually did," said Alex.

"It feels pretty good that we saved a person's life," said Kalvin Hasenauer.

"I thank God for them every day. That I know I wouldn't be here with(out) them, that everybody played their part. Every person played a big part in saving me," said Kaiser. "I just want to thank them."

The boys visited Kaiser when he was still in the hospital.  Their families pitched in to buy him a propane heater that shuts off when oxygen is depleted so he will not have to fear carbon monoxide poisoning again.    

Some of these young heroes are Boy Scouts.

They and their parents say the skills they learned in scouting helped them know how to react in a crisis situation.

Ken Hasenauer said he wants everyone to know you should never put a hibachi in your shanty, dress for the weather and make sure that somebody knows where you are fishing.

Kaiser did not have medical insurance and has created a GoFundMe account to help pay his medical bills.  For more information click here.

Theresa Hasenauer was one of the adults who helped care for Kaiser at the home.   She said this is not the first time they have brought someone in off the ice but they have never had anyone in such serious condition.    She and all the other parents are very proud of how their children reacted in the crisis situation.

"You try so hard to make sure that you bring your kids up to do the right thing, or to be kind to people. I was pretty awed myself about just how they handled the whole situation," said Theresa Hasenauer. "We couldn't have written a script better They actually wrote their own play, and they followed through on everything, and did exactly what they were supposed to do.  There's not another thing that I would have told them to do differently."

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