KINGMAN - The water at Lake Mohave was cold on Easter Sunday. It was too cold to stay in it for more than a few minutes at a time - and far too cold to swim the buoy line that separates the boaters from the swimmers at South Telephone Cove.
But that's what a small group of teenagers from Las Vegas tried to do before muscle cramps and the onset of hypothermia threatened to take them under.
If not for a chain of events that could only be described as fortuitous, one and maybe two of them would have drowned, turning Easter into a tragedy.
Kingman High students Daniel Brenneman and Jacob Ford represent the first two links in the chain. The friends were cliff jumping on an island with Ford's two older sisters when they heard the boys' call for help.
The other links in the chain came together when a Game and Fish patrol boat ventured into an area of the lake reserved for swimmers.
"I thought, 'Boy, they're a long ways out,' " said Trevor Buhr, who was on the shore with his daughter. "The water was cold, about 50 degrees. I got in to swim with my daughter and it was too cold."
Buhr, the Region 3 habitat program manager for the Arizona Game and Fish Department, said the teens swam about half the buoy line before hypothermia began to set in.
"The boy who had the worst of it began to panic," he said, putting his friend who was trying to keep him calm in peril.
Buhr said Brenneman and Ford were between 200 and 300 yards away when they began swimming from the island to the buoy line. From there they had another 150-yard swim to shore, with two exhausted people to keep afloat.
Buhr's wife, Velma Holt-Buhr, a lake patrol supervisor, and Game and Fish Officer Lainie Antolik had just arrived in the area in their boat when they spotted Brenneman and Ford "frantically waving" them down.
"The one kid was in such bad shape it was almost miraculous the patrol boat was there," said Buhr. "They were done. Those boys (Brenneman and Ford) trying to help is what kept them afloat long enough for my wife and Officer Antolik to spot them."
Park Service emergency responders arrived by boat and land.
Brenneman, 18, and Ford, 16, take their heroics in stride.
"Three kids got stranded on a buoy," said Brenneman, who is already enlisted and will enter the United States Marine Corps when he graduates later this spring. "They were yelling that they needed help. We had inflatable rafts so me and Jake swam out there."
The rafts were not exactly seaworthy, he said, and both boys had trouble staying afloat once they got to the buoy, retrieved two of the three swimmers and headed for shore, according to Brenneman.
"My guy was too exhausted," he said. "He couldn't help me and the other kid might have been in shock. He couldn't answer our questions."
While Brenneman and Ford helped two of the swimmers, the third was able to swim on his own.
"He wouldn't leave his friends," said Brenneman, who considers himself a strong swimmer.
Ford likewise said he's in pretty good shape and he's grateful he was there to help.
"I just kind of feel we were in the right place at the right time," said Ford.
Buhr believes several circumstances unfolded that turned a likely drowning into a happy ending. In other words, a few people were in the right place at the right time.
Neither stranded swimmer was in good shape once they were brought to shore, Buhr said. "One guy was shaking and was incoherent. Half an hour after he was out of the water he was still shaking and twitching. He inhaled a lot of water. His friend wasn't as bad off, but he was so exhausted he couldn't stand up.
"We let them know they got a second chance that day, Easter Sunday. Usually, something like this would have led to recovering the bodies of these two young men."
Buhr said people on the shore helped warm the boys and brought them water.
"It was encouraging to see the public be willing to help," he said. "This was one of those faith confirming moments ... those two young men (Brenneman and Ford) deserve a huge thank you."
"They were calling for help," said Ford. "We knew we couldn't hold back."
His mother Trish was not astonished by the selfless act.
"I'm extremely proud, of course, of both of them, but it doesn't surprise me. I expect it from both Jake and Daniel. They're those kind of guys."