NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Six children fell through the ice at the pond in Central Park Monday evening.
As CBS2’s Valerie Castro reported, the children all expected to recover Monday night and were suffering from mild hypothermia. But people who witnessed the incident and jumped into the water to help said some of the children appeared to be in very bad shape.
Around 5:55 p.m., police responded to a call of people in danger at the pond near Central Park South and Fifth Avenue, officials said.
Six children – some teenagers ages 15 or 16 but some as young as 10 – had fallen into the pond through the ice.
Kevin McQueen, 13, was among those who fell through the ice. He talked with CBS2’s Castro exclusively after walking safe and sound out of Northwell Health Lenox Hill Hospital Monday night.
“We were going to take a picture on the ice, and then one of my friends slipped, and once he fell, we all fell in the water,” he said.
McQueen said he and several of his friends wanted to take a group selfie, despite warning signs that the ice might be thin.
“We started to throw stuff on the ice to see if it would break, and it wouldn’t break, so then we went on the ice,” he said.
McQueen was in horror the next thing he knew.
“Like, my chest was closing up, like, I couldn’t breathe,” he said. “We were all sinking down, and we were holding on to each other.”
Maia Ramirez, a tourist from Paraguay, said people were screaming telling the teens to get off the pond.
“They said, ‘Let’s take a selfie,’” she told WCBS 880’s Myles Miller. “When they all went together, it all broke and they went all down.”
A nearby sign said “Danger, thin ice, keep off,” 1010 WINS reported.
Ramirez grabbed one of the many orange rescue ladders strapped to the trees near the pond to try to help rescue the teens. Meanwhile, two visitors from out of town said they jumped into the water before emergency crews arrived and began to pull the children out themselves.
“He went in the water, man. I was like halfway in. So yeah, we were just shoveling them out. That was pretty much it,” said Ethan Turnbull. “They were out, man. The last one was unconscious, and the other three were failing as well.”
Turnbull said he got the children out “as far as I could throw them. They were only 10- or 12-year-old kids, so I just had to get them out of the water. That’s all I had to do. The last one was unconscious. He wasn’t getting out on his own. He was frothing at the mouth.”
Bennett Jonas also stepped in to rescue the boys.
“I had to swim over and get them in,” he said. “I just had to just grab him and as hard as I could pull, and as hard as I could go to get him out. It’s do or die. I either went after him and grabbed him, or he would not be here tonight.”
After the six were rescued, the FDNY sent in dive teams to ensure everyone was accounted for.
McQueen’s sister, Noemi Rosario, was grateful the rescuers were there.
“I want to thank that gentleman for saving my little brother and saving the other kids,” she said.
Firefighters hope it would all serve as a lesson for others.
“They were just being kids, I guess, which I think if this goes out tonight, maybe you can reinforce to the people that with this thaw we’ve had, that going out on the ice is not a good idea,” said FDNY Deputy Chief John Schof.
Two of those rescued were taken to NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center, two were taken to Northwell Health Lenox Hill Hospital, and two more were taken to NYC Health + Hospitals/Bellevue.
None suffered life-threatening injuries.