Nov. 6, 2006

Father and son save the life of a trick-or-treater

By Jennifer Gallus
Staff Writer

What started as a fun night trick-or-treating on Halloween turned into the scariest day of some Howard Lake residents’ lives.

Michael Carlson dressed his three children up in Halloween costumes, and set out for an evening of trick-or-treating in the neighborhood along Shoreline Drive in Howard Lake.

Lucas Carlson, the oldest child, is 8 years old, has autism, and operates at a 1-year-old level, Michael said. Lucas has a 6-year-old brother named Kurtis, and a 2-year-old sister named Natasha.

“The children were having a great time,” said Michael, “they were ringing the doorbells and sticking out their buckets.”

Michael said, “I let go of Lucas’ hand briefly to pick up his sister, and Lucas took off running. He normally doesn’t take off like that.”

The father searching

“I kept yelling his name. He wouldn’t come back and wouldn’t respond. I was running around looking for Lucas while holding my two other children,” Michael said.

While Michael was yelling for Lucas, he was also yelling to everyone he saw trick-or-treating that his son was missing.

“I was scared to death,” Michael said. “Lucas has a fascination with water,” and the house he disappeared at was right on Dutch Lake, he said.

Michael knew that he couldn’t keep looking for Lucas with his two children on his hip so he ran back to a friend’s house, Shanna Carlson, who agreed to watch the two children while Michael went back out to search.

He also called 911 and was instructed to wait at his house for the police so they could assist. “This was ironic because no more than a few minutes after my kids got candy from a policeman who was patrolling the neighborhood, I was calling 911,” Michael said.

The neighbors searching

Meanwhile, trick-or-treaters were spreading the word of the missing boy. An unknown group of trick-or-treaters, which included a dark-haired girl in a dress that looked to be about 12 years old, were key to Lucas’ rescue.

Dan and Ann Hansen were notified by this trick-or-treating group, of the missing boy. Ann immediately turned on the lights in their backyard, and started running to all the neighbor’s houses, telling them about Lucas, and to turn on the lights in their back yards.

As soon as the Gross family were notified by Ann about Lucas’ disappearance, they immediately went into their backyard, along with their son Kyle, turned on the lights, and searched with flashlights.

Kyle said, “We heard this sound when we were on our deck.” Doug said, “It was very muffled, it almost sounded like a raccoon. We thought we better check it out and started walking toward the sound.”

The Gross’ have a 350-foot-long dock on Dutch Lake. “It’s so long because we had to get it past all the cattails,” Laurie said.

They found Lucas in the lake

Doug and Kyle walked all the way to the end of their dock with their flashlights and found Lucas neck deep in the water. “He was thrashing and making an awful sound,” said Doug.

Doug and Kyle were able to each grab an arm, while remaining on the dock, and pull Lucas up out of the water, reported Doug. Kyle said, “He was in the perfect position for us to pull him up.”

Doug and Kyle immediately started yelling that they found him, and Ann rushed down to the dock to help.

Ann said, “He was making a moaning noise but as soon as we told him we were taking him to his dad, he stopped, and seemed OK with things.”

Just as Doug was carrying Lucas up to his house, Lucas’ dad, Michael, came running around the back of the house, grabbed Lucas, and ran into the Gross’ house.

They immediately peeled off the wet layers. Lucas had a big, bulky dragon costume on, shoes, hat, and winter coat.

Lucas’ skin “from the neck down was completely red, it almost looked burned,” Laurie said.

Michael asked the Gross family, who were perfect strangers before this ordeal, if they could get him into a warm bath. The Gross’ immediately drew up the bath and got Lucas into it.

Michael said, “He wasn’t even shivering at first. It wasn’t until he was in the bath for awhile, then he started shivering.”

Laurie said, “He didn’t even cry. He laid in the bath smiling, oh, that smile!”

All persons directly involved thought that Lucas must have been in the water for about 10 minutes. No one can be sure.

When the paramedics arrived, they said that Michael had done the right thing by getting Lucas into a warm bath. The paramedics thought Lucas looked OK, but they took him to Buffalo Hospital to check everything out.

Ann said that the paramedics told her, “Had this (the rescue) been 10 minutes later, this would’ve been a very different ending.”

Lucas was fine and they sent him home that night. Michael had a hard time going to sleep after that. “I paced the floor to calm down. I checked on Lucas a dozen times, and kissed him a lot, before I went to bed,” Michael said.

“Lucas woke the next morning no worse for wear,” Michael said. “He sat and ate his breakfast like nothing ever happened,” he said.

“His mother and I are pretty torn up about this. I’ve been tearing myself apart thinking about what I should’ve done differently. It was the scariest Halloween I’ll never want to experience again,” Michael said. “Next year, I’ll have help with me,” he said.

Ann said, “Everyone was exactly where they needed to be that night. It was the scariest Halloween I’ve ever had.”

“Scary in other ways,” Ann’s husband, Dan, said.

“We’ve had tears in our eyes many times thinking about what we would’ve found the next morning,” said Laurie, with Ann echoing the same sentiments.

Doug said, “The next morning, I walked down the dock to where we had found Lucas, and there was ice frozen on the lake there, that’s how cold it was that night.”

Those who helped

Michael would like to express his sincere appreciation to the Gross family, the Hansen family, Shanna Carlson, the Howard Lake Police Department, the Howard Lake Fire Department, the trick-or-treaters that spread the word, and all the neighbors along Shoreline Drive.

Michael said, “I’m thankful nothing worse happened.”

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