Carterville Fire Chief Warns of Thin Ice Dangers

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By WSIL Manager

CARTERVILLE -- People in Carterville are grieving the loss of 12-year-old Justin Johnson-Stewart. The boy died Sunday after he and a friend fell through the ice on a pond off of Arbor Drive. The neighbor who got to the boys first Sunday night says they had a tackle box with them, as if they wanted to do some fishing. But the old strip pit pond where they were walking shows just how tricky it can be to gauge ice depth.

 
In the daylight with the sun glimmering off the smooth ice of the pond, it's a picturesque backyard scene.
 
"Years and years ago, the kids used to get out on the ice all the time and we had hockey games and had a lot of fun and did a lot of ice skating," remembers Carterville Fire Chief Bruce Talley.
 
But just Sunday evening, panic and fear were the primary emotions after two boys fell through the ice. Only one survived. 
    
Now, Chief Talley is reminding people how dangerous this ice can be. Looking at the scene on Monday, no one would dare attempt to cross this pond. But Talley says Sunday night, the ice was up to two inches thick in some parts of the pond.
 
"The ice has been around for quite some time compared to previous years. You might think that it's really, really thick, but you really need to think about it twice before you get out on it," he says.
 
Talley emphasizes parents need to teach kids to always double check with them each time before going out onto ice, because the daily freezing and thawing can affect thickness.
 
"There is a lot of melting that can go on today and then of course, re-freezing at night," Talley explains. "The bad part of it is, tomorrow morning, it has refrozen differently in different parts of the lake."
    
He also says about 10 feet off the shore is typically where the thickest ice forms. Out in the middle of a body of water, where the Carterville kids were, can weaken due to the sun.
 
"Kids being outside is a wonderful idea, get them away from the computers, away from the tvs, away from the video games. Get some outside experience. But certainly do your homework and get some adults to help supervise and make sure things are safe for you."
 
The name of the boy who survived is not being released, but Chief Talley says he was in pretty good condition when he visited him at Herrin Hospital Sunday night.
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