The firemen called out to rescue a deer trapped in ice on a lake near the town of Eutin in northern Germany had almost given up. The ice was too thin to hold the men, but strong enough to prevent the stricken animal from freeing itself.
Time was running out. It was Saturday afternoon and the light was failing. So the men took the difficult decision to summon a local hunter to put the animal, trembling with fright and cold, out of its misery. Just two weeks before Christmas.
"But the hunter refused to take the shot because of the risk of hitting someone on the opposite shore," a spokesman for the police in the city of Lübeck told SPIEGEL ONLINE.
That's when the deer's guardian angel appeared in the form of a passing police helicopter that happened to be in the area. "Its pilot had been listening to the police frequency and heard what was going on," the spokesman said. "He offered to help and had the idea of tilting the helicopter to create a strong downdraft. That literally blew the deer off the lake."
Once the animal had hit the shore, it got up and skipped off into the forest, apparently unhurt, the spokesman said.
The case may have set a precedent. "Every time a deer's in trouble somewhere, we're going to have to call in a helicopter now," said one policeman.