CARTERET, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — The families of two teenagers were grieving Thursday following separate deadly incidents. The boys fell through ice in different Middlesex County ponds.
There was so much to love about David Tillberg. The 15-year-old’s devastated aunt found the strength to share how special he was.
“He was just the perfect kid, the perfect son to my sister, the perfect brother,” she told CBS2’s Jenna DeAngelis. “He was just the best — like funny, goofy, just a kid, innocent, didn’t deserve this.”
She said he posted a picture on Snapchat with the caption “On the ice baby” moments before he and a friend slipped into Carteret Pond on Wednesday night. The boy he was with was able to get out on his own as rescue crews rushed in to help David.
“The police and rescue guards, they came out with a boat and were poking through the ice because they couldn’t get through the ice at first with the boat. They kept breaking it and breaking it until they got to that point,” neighbor and witness Robert Newman said.
Witnesses said crews were able to pull the David out of the water within an hour, but he died at University Hospital in Newark.
Tillberg was the second New Jersey teen to lose his life after slipping through an icy pond on Wednesday night.
The East Brunswick community is coping with the loss of 13-year-old Yousef Khela, including his friend from church.
“Great smile, he’d make you laugh. smile. Funny, nice, genuine great kid. When I found out I was heartbroken,” Chris Rizkaln said.
Yousef was with two other teens when all three fell through the ice of a pond located right behind the police station before 5 p.m. Two of the boys were able to get out and call for help.
“The boys called 911, and then once we got the call, officers in the building actually ran out to the pound, which is, like I said, right behind us,” said East Brunswick Lt. Frank Sutter.
Six officers formed a human chain to reach Yousef. Fire crews eventually pulled him out, but he was pronounced dead at a nearby hospital.
“We actually talked on Snapchat an hour before it happened. I wish I could have talked to him one last time,” Rizkaln said.
Several officers and firefighters had to be treated for hypothermia, as well.
Police said the deadly incidents should serve as a tragic reminder about ice.
“I used to serve on our water rescue team, and we had a mantra to live by: We said that no ice is safe ice,” East Brunswick Police Chief Frank LoSacco said.
Tillberg’s aunt said she hopes kids will start paying closer attention to signs by the pond warning to keep off the ice. And now with the temperature above freezing, the ice is melting, making ponds even more unsafe.
“I hope everyone tells their kids not to go on the ice. Don’t do that. Kids are gonna be kids, but tell them, you know,” she said.
The schools that the victims attended are providing resources to support grieving students and staff.
“Early this morning we lost a beloved member of our school family, David Tillberg, an 8th grader at Carteret Middle School. There are no words to describe the great sadness our students and staff are feeling right now,” Carteret Superintendent Rosa Diaz said in a statement. “Please be assured we will provide every resource possible to support all those affected.”
The aunt of the Carteret teen created a GoFundMe page to help the family with funeral costs.