2 young Iowa brothers who drowned after falling through ice were best friends to the end - Omaha.com
Published Tuesday, December 3, 2013 at 12:00 am / Updated at 1:08 am
2 young Iowa brothers who drowned after falling through ice were best friends to the end

PRESCOTT, Iowa — Brothers TJ and Nate Frey did everything together.

The boys played together. They laughed and joked together.

They were learning to play musical instruments together — TJ the trumpet, Nate the saxophone.

So it's not surprising, their principal said, that they ventured onto the ice on a pond near their home Saturday afternoon, together.

They fell through the ice. TJ, 11, and Nate, 9, died.

“The fact that they were out (there) together, it's not a surprise. That's just who they were,” said Principal John Walsh of St. Malachy School in Creston, where TJ and Nate were students. “They were each other's best friend.”

Services are scheduled for Saturday at Holy Spirit Catholic Church in Creston. The time has yet to be set.

The boys left their home in rural Adams County about 4:30 p.m. Saturday to play outside, said Donnie Willett, the county's emergency management director. When they didn't return, one of the parents went looking and found a 5-foot hole in the ice with clothing next to it.

The family called for help. First came paramedics and firefighters from Prescott and Creston.

The weather was mild Saturday, and the ice near the hole was thin enough that firefighters punched through it with their fists trying to find the boys.

Two Creston firefighters donned ice suits — wetsuits with hoods — and jumped in. The first child was found in 10 to 15 minutes, floating about a foot under the water.

About 15 to 20 minutes after that, the firefighters found the second child, about 6 to 8 feet under the surface.

The brothers were flown to a Des Moines hospital, where they were pronounced dead.

“These people loved those kids, and it was one of those very, very, unfortunate accidents,” Willett said.

All told, 55 to 60 people, representing agencies including the Iowa State Patrol, the Adams County Sheriff's Office and the Corning Fire Department, responded. Counselors were made available Sunday to the first responders.

“Every one of us has children or grandchildren or nieces and nephews that would be in this age group,” Willett said.

The boy's parents, Tom and Leisa Frey, “are just lost,” Willett said. “We're very, very sorry for the family.”

The Freys asked for privacy on Monday. Walsh, the principal, said the couple had seven children including the boys.

Grief counselors were available Monday for the students at St. Malachy.

Walsh said the brothers will be remembered for their sense of humor. They often told silly jokes that adults didn't always get. They were also kind to other kids, the principal said.

“They always came with a smile,” he said. I'm going to miss just two really good kids. At times ornery ... but they were honest.”

Willett said the ice along the edge of the pond was 2 to 3 inches thick, but much thinner where the boys fell in.

Temperatures in the region have not fallen yet to the point that it is safe to walk on iced-over waters, he said. The depth of the water where the boys were found is 10 to 11 feet.

“Until we get a 10-day or longer cold spell,” he said, “the ice just isn't going to be thick enough to be out on.”

Contact the writer: Andrew J. Nelson

andrew.nelson@owh.com    |   402-444-1310    |  

Andrew writes about virtually everything – crime, features, legislative news and small-town controversy – happening in Iowa.

Cult murderer's death row appeal denied, but execution in limbo
Beau McCoy strikes Obama doll in TV ad; Democrats are not happy
17 senators in Nebraska Legislature hit their (term) limits
Police identify 21-year-old shot in ankle near 30th, W Streets
19-year-old arrested in connection with March shooting
Police: Slaying of woman in Ralston apartment likely over drugs
Keystone XL pipeline backers blast 'political expediency' as foes hail ruling to delay decision
Nebraska senators to study tax issues over break
Interstate construction to cause lane shifts, closings in Omaha area
Teenager arrested after woman's purse is snatched outside Omaha store
Kelly: A California university president returns to her Nebraska roots on Ivy Day
Omahan charged in fatal shooting in Benson neighborhood
Friday's attendance dips at Millard West after bathroom threat
High school slam poets don't just recite verses, 'they leave their hearts beating on the stage'
Crack ring's leaders join others in prison as a result of Operation Purple Haze
Haze in area comes from Kansas, Oklahoma
Man taken into custody in domestic dispute
Omaha judge reprimanded for intervening in peer attorney's DUI case
Intoxicated man with pellet gun climbs billboard's scaffold; is arrested
Police seek public's help in finding an armed man
Saturday forecast opens window for gardening; Easter egg hunts look iffy on Sunday
Database: How much did Medicare pay your doctor?
Last day of 2014 Legislature: Praise, passage of a last few bills and more on mountain lions
New public employee pay data: Douglas, Lancaster, Sarpy Counties, plus utilities
A voice of experience: Ex-gang member helps lead fight against Omaha violence
< >
COLUMNISTS »
Kelly: A California university president returns to her Nebraska roots on Ivy Day
The main speaker at today's Ivy Day celebration at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln is a college president who grew up roping calves and earned her Ph.D. at the prestigious Oxford University in England.
Breaking Brad: Stuck in a claw machine? You get no Easter candy
I know of one kid in Lincoln who will be receiving a lump of coal from the Easter Bunny, just as soon as he's extricated from that bowling alley claw machine.
Breaking Brad: Mountain lion season's over, but the bunny's fair game!
Thursday was the last day of a Nebraska Legislature session. Before leaving town, legislators passed a bill to hold a lottery to hunt the Easter Bunny.
Breaking Brad: At least my kid never got stuck inside a claw machine
We need a new rule in Lincoln. If your kid is discovered inside the claw machine at a bowling alley, you are forever barred from being nominated for "Mother of the Year."
Breaking Brad: How many MECA board members can we put in a luxury suite?
As a stunt at the Blue Man Group show, MECA board members are going to see how many people they can stuff into one luxury suite.
Deadline Deal thumbnail
The Jaipur in Rockbrook Village
Half Off Fine Indian Cuisine & Drinks! $15 for Dinner, or $7 for Lunch
Buy Now
PHOTO GALLERIES »
< >
SPOTLIGHT »
Omaha World-Herald Contests
Enter for a chance to win great prizes.
OWH Store: Buy photos, books and articles
Buy photos, books and articles
Travel Snaps Photo
Going on Vacation? Take the Omaha World-Herald with you and you could the next Travel Snaps winner.
Click here to donate to Goodfellows
The 2011 Goodfellows fund drive provided holiday meals to nearly 5,000 families and their children, and raised more than $500,000 to help families in crisis year round.
WORLD-HERALD ALERTS »
Want to get World-Herald stories sent directly to your home or work computer? Sign up for Omaha.com's News Alerts and you will receive e-mails with the day's top stories.
Can't find what you need? Click here for site map »