The Northern Westchester Examiner

Peekskill Parks and Rec Worker Saves Girl on Icy Lake

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When a supervisor came running into his parks and recreation office at Depew Park last Wednesday afternoon about 3 p.m. and said to call 911 Peekskill laborer P.J. Male initially thought it might be an April Fool’s Day prank.

Male quickly learned it was no joke when he looked out on Depew Lake, heard someone screaming for help and saw a young girl hanging on to a piece of ice while her small dog was running around.

“The water was up to her neck and shoulder. I don’t know if she could swim but if she went under I don’t think she would have been able to break the ice to come back up,” Male recalled. “I just ran out there. I acted on instinct.”

Male, 42, who noted he has a heart problem and diabetes, was able to trudge through the murky, 33-degree lake and swim 25 to 30 yards to the six feet deep point of the waterway to reach the frightened girl, who he learned later was nine years old. He said he put the girl and dog on his back and doggy paddled back to safety.

“She kept saying her mother was going to kill her and she didn’t know if she could hang on,” Male said of the girl, who he only was able to identify by her first name, Shay. The girl told Male the dog had gotten loose while she was walking it and ran on to the lake, which has warning signs posted.

The girl and Male were both transported to New York Presbyterian-Hudson Valley Hospital. He was released after about four hours, while the girl, who doctors thought may have been suffering from hypothermia, was discharged in two hours to her grateful father.

“He was very thankful and very appreciative,” Male, who has a seven-year-old son, said of the father.

Male has worked for the City of Peekskill for the last 12 years. He recently purchased a home in Putnam Valley, where he umpires men’s softball. He coached JV football at Walter Panas High School last year.

“People call me a hero but I don’t really think like that because I don’t ever think my life was in jeopardy,” he said. “You read about and you see things like this and all of a sudden it was happening in front of me. The first thing I thought was that’s someone’s child out there.”




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