NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — A community on Wednesday was mourning the death of an 11-year-old boy who fell through an icy pond while trying to rescue a friend in Queens.
As CBS2’s Hazel Sanchez reported, the boy rescued his friend who fell into a pond and saved that friend’s life. But he couldn’t save himself.
Now, the FDNY wants parents to warn their children about the ice danger.
A memorial bouquet of flowers sat at the entrance of the Strack Memorial Pond at Forest Park in Woodhaven, Queens Wednesday. It sat just a few feet from where Anthony Perez McClean fell into the frigid water in an attempt to save his friend the day before.
“He was a good friend. He gave his life for his friend and no kids do that,” said neighbor Angela Vargas.
Anthony was playing at the edge of the pond, where signs warned of dangerous thin ice.
Nevertheless, Anthony’s 12-year-old walked onto the pond and fell through. Anthony rushed out to save him, but fell in as well.
Anthony was able to push his friend out of the water, but could not help himself. The 12-year-old ran home to get help.
The FDNY responded in minutes, breaking through the ice with their hands.
“They had to, physically with their hands, break through the ice, so that they could get to the area where they knew where the child would most likely be,” said FDNY Deputy Chief George Healy. “They had to go underneath and remove him.”
But it was too late – Anthony died at Jamaica Hospital Medical Center.
“Based on his condition when he was removed from the water, there could have been a prolonged period of time he was submerged,” Healy said.
Neighbors in Woodhaven describe the boys as buddies who were often together.
“I would see them riding bikes over here, both of them,” neighbor Steve Gonzalez said. “What a big tragedy, it devastated me and my wife.”
Meanwhile, firefighters encouraged parents to warn their families that no ice is ever safe.
“There’s no way for me to give you an indicator if the ice is strong enough to hold you or not,” said Steve Forlenza of the FDNY Scuba Unit. “Kids are curious. They go out for whatever reason. The best advice that we can give is just day off the ice.”
The FDNY said the firefighters who jumped into the water for just a few moments also had to be treated for signs of hypothermia.
“There’s signs around all these lakes in the city. Again, we implore you to tell your children, make sure they’re aware,” Healy said. “The ice is not safe, it’s not going to support your weight and it can have tragic consequences.”
The Rev. Matt Staneck, pastor at a neighborhood church, said he knew parents were concerned about how to console their grieving children.
“I don’t think it’s how do we talk to our kids that’s the answer. I think it’s how do we listen — especially for kids that are still in adolescence or preadolescence,” Staneck said. “They need to walk through how to process this, and they need people who are going to walk through that process with them.”
He also urged Anthony’s peers to the life and selflessness of the brave friend they lost.
“I do think that shows in a world that’s kind of going crazy right now, what true love looks like,” Staneck said.
McClean’s friend was not seriously injured in the incident.
The FDNY said no one should ever attempt an ice rescue without proper training. The best move is to call 911 as soon as possible.