'It’s just heartwarming’: Sheriff honors heroes who saved 6-year-old boy from frigid lake

ALEXANDER COUNTY, N.C. — Sheriff deputies in Alexander County honored three construction workers Tuesday for stepping in and saving the life of a 6-year-old boy.

The child, who has autism, wandered away from his home last Friday and fell into Lake Hickory.

Sheriff Chris Bowman called the men heroes for rescuing the boy.

“When we have a situation like this, that they were able to save this 6-year old boy’s life, it’s just heartwarming,” Bowman said.

Deputies said the carpenters were working on remodeling a lake house around 11 a.m. last Friday when they heard what they thought was a cat screaming.

The men then realized the sound was coming from the water, and located a young boy who had fallen into the lake.

As they ran to a neighboring dock, the men said they could hear the boy yelling, “Help me!"

Deputies said that’s when Scott Lingerfelt, one of the carpenters, jumped into the water fully clothed and swam about 40 yards across the cove to grab the boy.

The water temperature was believed to be 45 to 50 degrees at the time.

As Lingerfelt swam back, James Wycoff, a nearby homeowner, called 911 while the boy’s older brother and Jason Southerland, another carpenter who had jumped in his pickup truck and driven to the other side of the cove, waited for him to get to shore.

“It was cold,” Lingerfelt said. “I said, ‘Lord, you gotta help me with it. Give me the strength to get across there.’ As I got across, I could see (the boy) and started talking with him saying, ‘Bud, you’re gonna be OK. We’re gonna get to you.’”

On Tuesday, the good Samaritans said they would do it again, without hesitation.

Channel 9 spoke with the boy’s mother Friday, who said her son has autism and sometimes wanders off. When she spotted her son in the water, she quickly drove back to her home down the road to get his older brother, because she can’t swim.

“I was wondering if he was dying, because I couldn’t save him,” Jan Bentley said. “I’m a panicker, and I panicked.”

Deputies said the boy’s older brother helped pull the child out of the water when Lingerfelt reached the dock.

“God put us there at the right place at the right time,” Lingerfelt said. “I was doing something I hope someone would do for my boy.”

The mother and son are thankful the men risked their lives to help a child they didn’t even know.

“Trying to get there to save him was amazing to me, like for someone to jump across that river,” Bentley said.

The child, who ended up in the lake after wandering away from his home up the road, was taken to Catawba Valley Medical Center and is OK.

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