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.

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