11-year-old boy dies saving friend who fell through ice in Forest Park, Queens

WOODHAVEN, Queens (WABC) -- An 11-year-old boy died after falling through the ice at a freezing pond in Queens Tuesday. It happened after he pulled his friend to safety, but then fell in himself.

Officials said Anthony Perez and a 12-year-old child were walking on the frozen surface of Strack Pond in Forest Park in Woodhaven around 4:05 p.m., when Perez's friend broke through and went into the water about 50 feet from the shore.

Perez rescued his friend but was unable to get out. The 12-year-old ran to get help, and firefighters worked frantically to do anything and everything they could, barefoot and wearing just shorts and T-shirts.

Two of them dove into the ice-cold waters of the pond to search for Perez, but they couldn't immediately locate him. One of them shimmied out, got his bearings, and spotted on a figure under the water. He dove back in, he and his partner punching through ice to get closer until they finally found him. They pulled him to shore and began CPR, but it was too late.

"There are signs around all these lakes in the city, we implore you, tell your children make sure they're aware," FDNY Deputy Chief George Healy said. "Today, the temperature was well above freezing. The ice is not safe. It's not going to support your weight, and it can have tragic consequences."

The two firefighters were treated for hypothermia. Authorities say Perez was in the water for 20 or 30 minutes before he was pulled to shore.

"He was a good boy," neighbor Angela Vargas said of the victim. "The last time I saw him, he gave me a lollipop."

And when it came time to hang up Christmas lights every year, Vargas knew she could count on her young neighbor.

"He was a good friend, because he gave his life for his friend," she said. "No kid does that...God needed an angel."

His neighbors are still in shock. For those who grew up there, they say the park is what they love about the area. But say they knew to respect the water.

"The kids, they don't realize," neighbor Dominique Costanzo said. "Especially it hasn't been that cold lately, for it to be frozen solid."

Neighbor Kevin Orr knows the boy who survived, who he said will carry this weight forever.

"I can't imagine that, for a young kid?" Orr said. "Who knows? Who knows how he'll handle that. It's his friend."

Healy said there are parts of the ice in the pond that are very thick, but not where the boy fell through.

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