It was cold yesterday afternoon, but not cold enough to completely freeze over a pond in Reston, and 6-year-old Robert Miracle, who wanted to see how far out on the ice he could safely venture, found out by falling in.
Before the chilling adventure was over, at least four other boys trying to help him were floundering in the icy waters of the Stratton Woods pond, with Robert's 10-year-old brother David first among them.
Despite the difficulties caused by ice that broke under swimmers' hands and would-be rescuers' feet, all five eventually escaped safely, including Jere Richardson, who, the Miracle family says, played the major role in saving Robert.
Robert, according to his brother, "was trying to see how far he could go without breaking the ice when all of a sudden he took a step and then the ice gave way and he fell through."
David dropped flat on the ice, crawled to the edge and tried to reach his brother, who was in water well over his head.
But, David said, "the ice tore and I fell in."
The older brother, who has been taking swimming lessons, tried to hold the 6-year-old, while keeping his own head above water, but with the edge of the nearby ice cracking under his reaching hands, the task was too great.
Before long, Richardson, 13, and two other Reston 13-year-olds, Paul Oliver and Greg Shuey, were also in the water.
With Richardson supporting the 6-year-old, and two other boys, Buddy Steele and Shawn Smith, helping from firm ice, everyone ultimately reached safety. They were treated for exposure at the nearby emergency room and released.
The 6-year-old was in the water for about 10 minutes, the Fairfax County fire and rescue services said, and could not have withstood its cold temperatures much longer.