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Two teens die, one survives after fall through ice

Photo by Michael Buckelew

Photo by Michael Buckelew

DACULA -- Two teens are dead and a third was hospitalized following a fatal plunge Saturday into the icy waters of a neighborhood pond.

Rescue workers were called to the Daniel Park subdivision in Dacula on Saturday afternoon after a witness reported seeing three teenagers fall through the ice and into the frigid water.

When crews arrived, one of the teens, identified by witnesses as Alex Paul, had pulled himself out onto a thin sheet of ice and was attempting to locate his friends, who were still submerged.

After coaxing the boy to the shore, where rescuers began treating him for hypothermia and shock, the Gwinnett County Fire Department's Swiftwater Rescue Team deployed a boat. Unable to locate the other boys at the surface, rescuers used 10-foot pike poles to skim the bottom, where they found the teens, who had been submerged for almost an hour. Both were unconscious and unresponsive when they were pulled from the water.

"It looked like, according to witnesses, that they may have just been enjoying the day, maybe out playing, sliding across the ice," said Capt. Tommy Rutledge, spokesman for the Fire Department.

All three teens, ages 13 to 15, were transported to Gwinnett Medical Center, where the two teens who had been submerged when crews arrived were later pronounced dead. Their names had not been released.

Residents of the subdivision gathered on a sidewalk overlooking the pond, one of two in the neighborhood, reported seeing other kids venturing out onto the treacherous ice.

"For three days we've been having to yell at kids," said Cindi Stanesic, whose home overlooks the second pond. "Kids have been coming from all over the neighborhood to get on the ice."

"They're just going out, they're standing, they're throwing rocks, they're just not sure," said Tina Eiken. "They think it's safe and it's really not."

A mass e-mail went out from Stanesic, Eiken and other concerned homeowners just Friday asking Daniel Park residents to keep their children off the ice.

"It's ironic that we did that, people are probably just reading that this morning and then this happens," Stanesic said. "I'm very thankful it didn't happen right in my back yard and I have to live with that every day, but these people do. It's heartbreaking."

According to the county 911 center, Gwinnett police had responded to almost 30 reports of children playing on frozen bodies of water across the county over the past couple days.

"We're sending zone cars out to run them off the ice, to explain to them and get them to their parents to keep them off the ice," said Capt. Dan Branch with Gwinnett County police.

Gwinnett County Fire and Emergency Services officials issued a statement Friday warning residents of the dangers of walking on frozen lakes, ponds and creeks.

"Though it may look inviting, it's not a place to play, it's not a skating rink, as we've seen today," Rutledge said Saturday. "It's extremely dangerous."