; CHAPTER ONE: ;Warnings Ignored ;Convict Lake sparkled under the crisp winter sky of the Sierra ; Nevada. Surrounded by two-feet snow banks, the ice above crystal clear waters ; invited daring souls with a siren song of beauty. . . and treachery. ; ;Trained rescue people know a frozen mountain lake is the most ; illusive of natural phenomena. There is no such thing as "safe ice." ; It could be two to four feet dense in one place, but only a short distance away, ; pockets of warm springs bubbling under the surface might shrivel the thickness ; to a perilous few inches. ;On a cloudless day in February, fifteen teenagers and two counselors ; from Camp O'Neal, a residential facility for troubled youth, were on a ; holiday outing at the lake. What began as an adventure ended in disaster. ;Some of the boys stayed with Counselor Randy Porter on the ; breakwater by the marina, throwing rocks to break the shallow-water ice. Another ; group was about eight feet out on the ice, laughing and clowning around while ; Counselor Dave Meyers snapped pictures. At first no one noticed five boys who ; were headed toward the middle of the lake. When Randy spotted them, they were ; already far out from shore. ;"Hey, you guys . . . get back here. It's dangerous ; out there!" His shouts fell on deaf ears. ;Far out on the frozen lake, the boys heard a loud crack and ; looked down to see the ice fracturing beneath them. One boy shouted, "We ; shouldn't be doing this," and started back to shore. The other four ; boys forged ahead. ;"I don't care if I die!" one boy shouted as ; he smashed the ice with his hiking boots. ;Within seconds, the four boys fell into the freezing water ; as the loud crack of the ice fracture echoed through the canyon. Muffled screams ; coming from the middle of the lake could be heard on shore. Counselor Dave dropped ; his camera gear and began to race toward the sound of those frantic cries. With ; each step the ice gave way under his feet. ;When Counselor Randy realized the danger, he immediately ordered ; the kids close to shore to get off the ice and instructed one of the wards to ; run to the ranger's residence for help. Then Randy headed out on the ice ; himself. ;Dave reached the spot where the four boys had been hanging ; onto the edge of the ice, but only three were there. Shawn was gone. Without ; a wet suit, Dave's jeans and sweatshirt were frozen stiff, but he plunged ; into the ice-water and pushed Phil to the surface and coached him to crawl on ; his belly to the north shore, some two hundred feet away. Phil survived, but ; his buddy, Sellars, was unable to move, his body frozen to the surface of the ; ice. Dave and another boy, Ryan, struggled for life as hypothermia gripped their ; bodies. ;On shore, Ranger Clay Cutter, caretaker for Convict Lake, had ; been called from his home by a hysterical boy. His wife, Teri, dialed 911 and ; reported to the emergency services dispatcher that four youths were "through ; the ice at Convict Lake." She told her three daughters, "Stay in the ; house," grabbed her binoculars, and headed to the lake that was consuming ; the lives of those caught in its freezing grip. She watched the entire event, ; including the valiant life-and-death battle her husband fought for the next ; forty-five minutes. ;A ;MOUNTAIN RESCUE TEAM ;In a mountain home twenty-five miles from Convict Lake, the ; beeper sounded for Reverend Russ Veenker, a man trained in underwater search ; and reJeremiah, David is the author of 'Escape the Coming Night' with ISBN 9780849943683 and ISBN 084994368X.