Darden Schurg, a college wrestler from Wabash College in Crawfordsville, Indiana, is being hailed as a hero after a video of him braving freezing waters to save a drowning cat has gone viral.
Schurg and his family were enjoying Christmas Eve at home in Hobart, Indiana when Schurg’s father noticed a feral cat across a short stretch of water of an icy lake that had broken through the thin layer of ice and was struggling to get out. The cat attempted to pull itself up onto the ice a number of times but kept breaking through it and falling back into the freezing water, according to WISH-TV.
The family conferred on what to do about it for a few minutes before Schurg’s older brother attempted to rescue the cat. However, his brother could not stand the icy water and quickly gave up.
Schurg, a 21-year-old college senior, felt like he had to do something about it and made a split-second decision. He tore off all of his clothes except for his black underwear and dove through the ice into the frigid water.
“I felt like it was just something I had to do,” Schurg said.
“I kind of have a small place for animals and I just love wildlife, so seeing that cat kind of bothered me. I just couldn’t stand by.”
With his family cheering him on, he swam nearly 40 yards to the cat. Breaking through the thin ice layer as he swam, the shards of broken ice left cuts all over his body. As Schurg drew closer, the cat saw him and came to rest, holding onto the ice with just its two front paws until Schurg reached him.
“I could tell he was an outside feral cat ’cause he was kind of growling and hissing at me, but he was too cold to be able to do anything,” Schurg said. “So, I kind of took the hisses and the growling as a thank you,” he added.
Schurg eventually reached the cat and lifted him from the water. He cradled the animal on the shore until the frozen animal regained motor functions.
“He was pretty bad,” Schurg told CBS Chicago.
“I think he was kind of a little bit frozen. He kind of came out of it a little bit of a shock. He went under the dock and hid for a little bit. He came out and kind of shook off and sat in the sun. the temperature was starting to come back up.”
“He got to a point where he was able to run off on his own,” Schurg said. “So I think he’s doing pretty good.”
The video of the incident was posted to Facebook by Schurg’s sister-in-law Hilda, who dubbed the youth “Aquaman” for his heroic rescue.
“My adrenaline did most of the work, but the toughest challenge was the 15 minutes after I got back inside. I was cold and lightheaded,” Schurg said.
According to Metro, the video concludes with Schurg giving the camera a thumbs-up to the camera before cutting to him on a couch covered in blankets. A number of abrasions can be seen all over Schurg due to the cuts he received from the ice.
“I didn’t realize how sharp the ice was until I had gotten out,” he said.
“I was a little taken aback, myself. I looked down, and I was completely covered head to toe in blood.”
Schurg said his father, a fellow animal lover, “was super proud of me.” His father isn’t the only one, as the “Aquaman” nickname has spread throughout Schurg’s hometown.
“I love all the outpouring support, and I’m just so thankful that I was given this opportunity because it’s that quick moment in time and you have such a short time to respond,” he said.
“I was just happy that I was in the right place at the right time and able to do the right thing.”