McChord Airman rescues girl from drowning in icy lake

Staff Sgt. Matthew Siegele, the 627th Force Support Squadron sports and fitness NCO in charge, saved a little girl from drowning on the afternoon of Jan. 1, 2016, when she was walking on a frozen Carter Lake at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., and fell through the ice. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Divine Cox)

A McChord airman saved a girl’s life while spending New Year’s Day with his daughter at a local park. Staff Sgt. Matthew Siegele says his daughter went to play with three other girls, while they were at the park near Carter Lake at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, in Washington.

He agreed to let his daughter play with the others as long as she stayed “off the ice.” As he was watching his daughter, Siegele noticed the oldest girl trying to talk the others into seeing how far they could ‘walk across the ice’. That went on for some time.

Just before sunset, he heard screaming. One of the girls – the littlest one — had fallen into the ice.  “She was waving her arms in the air and screaming for help,” he said.

Lucky for the girls, Siegele – who is the 627th Force Support Squadron sports and fitness NCO in charge- is always aware of his surroundings.  He knew that the ice couldn’t hold his weight, so he ran around the lake to the side closest to the girl — and where it was safer to reach her.

He saw another man start running toward the lake as he was making his way around the fence line.

They both went into the ice, grabbed the child and started swimming back to shore. Suddenly, the other man went under and Siegele “lost grip of the girl, causing her to go under as well.”

“I reached for her, but I couldn’t feel her,” Siegele told an Air Force PAO. “So I dove under to find her and managed to pull her up by her jacket.”

Just as the other man was reaching the shore, Siegele and the girl resurfaced. They started heading  back to shore as well- finally making their way back to safety.

By the time the girl’s father got there, in a panicked state, Siegele says he was so cold and out of it, he’d forgotten everything.

Later that night, though, he contacted the girl’s parents to see if she was okay. The couple thanked him for saving their daughter’s life. Siegele credits all the training he received in the Air Force, for his quick-thinking in that scary situation.


  • Michele graduated with a B.S. in Telecommunication from the University of Florida’s College of Journalism and Communications. She has spent numerous years working in the news industry in south Florida, including many positions ranging from being a news writer at WSVN, the Fox affiliate in Miami to being an associate news producer at WPLG-TV, the ABC affiliate in Miami. Michele has also worked in Public Relations and Marketing.

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