An 11-year-old boy died on Tuesday after he saved his friend who fell through an icy Forest Park pond in Queens, police said.
Anthony Perez, of Queens, was able to push his 12-year-old friend to the shore after he fell into the Strack Pond about 50 feet from shore shortly before 4 p.m., but he couldn’t get out himself, according to police and FDNY Deputy Chief George Healy.
The other boy alerted authorities when he got to the shore, and firefighters were on the scene within four minutes, Healy said.
“They had to break through the ice so they could get to the area where they knew the child would most likely be in,” he said of the rescue during a news conference in the park.
Three firefighters, who were not wearing cold-weather suits, got into the water at “chest-deep” levels and were able to rescue Anthony, but he was not breathing. They immediately administered CPR and revived him, Healy said.
Anthony was rushed to Jamaica Hospital Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead, according to cops. His death was ruled accidental in nature by the medical examiner's office, which cited drowning and hypothermia as the cause.
Two firefighters were also transported to the hospital for treatment of hypothermia, Healy said.
Anthony lived just minutes from the park where he died. Neighbors on Wednesday remembered the boy as sweet, kind and respectful.
“He seemed like the kind of person who would jump in and rescue the other boy,” Hilda Costanzo, 73, said. “I would lay here on the porch, and I’m an old person, and he would wave to me. He seemed like a really nice kid.”
Cesar Alvarez, 41, has lived across the street for the past five years.
“He was very sweet and very respectful. ‘Hello sir, bye ma’am’ that kind of thing,” Alvarez said. “It goes to show the kind of person he was that he went into the lake to save his friend.”
Alvarez said he believes the city should take a closer look at the pond, and not just during the winter months.
“I think that pond is a hazard. If you go there in the summer, the stench is terrible,” he said. “The water does not move, and there are a lot of mosquitoes.”
Angela Vargas, 65, said she would often see Anthony playing in his front yard.
“He was very quiet. He used to respect everybody,” she said. “Every time I saw him, I used to say hi. He was always smiling.”
Last month, the FDNY and Department of Parks and Recreation urged New Yorkers to be cautious and not traverse the 96 ponds located in city parks during icy conditions. The deputy chief reiterated those warnings to parents Tuesday evening.
“There’s signs around all these lakes in the city,” Healy said. “Make sure your kids know the ice in the city of New York, on these lakes and ponds that are out, they are not safe. It won’t support your weight.”
With Nicole Brown and Rajvi Desai