Five teens are being hailed as heroes after working together to rescue two children from an icy pond. Olivia Heid, 8, and her younger brother RJ, 4, were sledding down a steep hill when they lost control and shot into the freezing water. Thanks to the quick thinking of the brave teens, however, both children emerged unharmed.
On Thursday, December 17, parents Rick Heid and Stephaine Irlbeck decided to take their two kids sledding at Beacon Hill Country Club in New Jersey.
“We have two saucer sleds, but my husband insisted on bringing this big blow-up inner tube sled,” Irlbeck said, according to Patch.com. “We spent half an hour sitting in the car blowing that thing up. […] Little did I know that inflatable sled would save their lives.”
After a successful sled run down a small hill, Olivia and RJ returned to the top for another round. Their second run, however, quickly went awry.
“They were continuing — getting more momentum,” the pair’s father recalled. “I realized right there, like, ‘Holy crap, they’re going down to that water.'”
At the same time, 14-year-old Kieran Foley stood with a group of friends by the pond, throwing rocks at the ice to test its stability, when they heard Heid shouting.
“We heard this dad yelling, ‘Hop off, hop off!’ Foley said. “We turned around and see those kids coming down the hill. They were going backwards.”
All watched at the children’s sled flew over a ridge of snow before hitting the ice and breaking through.
“It kind of floated for a little bit,” Irlbeck said. But then it began slowly sinking into the ice.
Without hesitation, Foley jumped into the water after the children.
“I didn’t see anyone else be able to do anything, so I just jumped in,” Foley recalled. “I was like, whatever. It wasn’t deep, so I could walk right over to them.”
Foley was able to reach the children and hand them one by one to his friends, who had formed a human chain. These included Joseph Dietrich, 14, Drew Scalice, 14, Ryan Day, 15, and Tyler Armagan, 14.
“It wasn’t how deep it was, it was how cold,” Scalice said of the danger Olivia and RJ faced.
After helping to bring the kids ashore, Day noticed that 4-year-old RJ had begun to cry.
“I hate seeing children have to cry and suffer like that,” said the teen, who also works as a caddy at the country club. In order to calm the toddler, Day began asking what the boy wanted from Santa this Christmas.
“I couldn’t get down the hill fast enough,” Irlbeck said. “There were other families at the top of the hill and we were all screaming. What was amazing to me was to see the boys immediately know how to form a human chain. I don’t know how they knew to do that. The whole thing is incredible.”
Foley reportedly lost a snow boot during the incident and performed the rescue entirely barefoot. Meanwhile, Armagan dropped his cell phone in the water, while another boy lost his headphones.
“We offered them money; they wouldn’t take it,” Irlbeck said. “My husband took off his pants and gave Kieran his pants and his boots; thankfully, he took those.”
The mother said the five boys also declined a ride home from the Heid family.
“They were insanely humble. They didn’t want anything, they just wanted to make sure my kids were OK,” she said. “They kept saying to my kids, ‘You’re safe now. You’re going to get a hot chocolate and a warm bath at home.'”
The incident has made the five boys local heroes in Middletown, New Jersey, though they maintain an admirable humility when discussing the rescue.
“Honestly, I feel like I didn’t do much,” Day said of his role.
“We hope that anybody would do that,” agreed Armagan. “It just happened to be us there.”
However, parents Heid and Irlbeck can’t help but marvel at the heroic deed that saved their children.
“Adults wouldn’t do things like that, you know?” Irlbeck said.
“What they did was, like, just amazing,” Heid agreed. “It was awesome to see little kids do that.”