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Community comes together to honor boy who died saving friend in Forest Park

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Friends and family celebrated the life of Anthony Perez, the 11-year-old who died saving his friend after he fell into a frozen pond in Forest Park Feb. 6.

Mourners gathered at Glendale’s Walsh-La Bella & Son funeral home Sunday and Monday afternoon to pay their respects to the boy who died from hypothermia.

Anthony and his friend, Juan Umpierrez, 12, were playing on the frozen waters of Strack Pond in Forest Park when Juan fell through the ice, according to police. Anthony rushed to help Juan, fell in himself, and was unable to get out of the freezing water. Police said Juan ran home to call 911 and when the FDNY arrived, firefighters had to break through the ice with their hands so they could get to the area where they knew Anthony would most likely be, then went into the water to get him.

Firefighters tried to revive Anthony once they retrieved his body from the pond but were unable to. He was pronounced dead at Jamaica Hospital, police said.

Shortly afterward during a press conference FDNY Deputy Chief George Healy implored parents to make sure their kids know the ice on the lakes and ponds of the city are not safe places to play.

“It won’t support your weight,” he said. “Please stay off the ice. There are signs around all the lakes in the city and we implore you: Tell your children it can have tragic consequences. Again, the ice looks to be safe, it looks to be thick, but the temperature today was well above freezing.”

Immediately after his death, the Glendale community united to honor Anthony, who they have hailed as a hero for his actions. A GoFundMe page has been set up in his honor and has already surpassed its $15,000 goal in less than a week, raising $22,738 and counting as of Monday. The page, set up by a family friend on behalf of Anthony’s mother, asked for friends to help “assist his family with the expenses of burying this sweet boy.”

“On Tuesday, Feb. 6, 2018 young Anthony Perez became a hero and an angel all in the same day,” the page read. “While helping his friend get out of Strack Pond in Forest Park, Queens, he fell in himself and although Glendale’s brave firefighters pulled him out soon later, it wasn’t soon enough to save this hero’s life.”

Dozens of donators left their condolences on the page, many from Anthony’s friends, parents and the staff at his middle school PS 113.

Elizabeth Walter shared her condolences with the Perez family.

“No words I have can express the sorrow I feel over the loss of such a young great life,” she wrote. “Your bravery and actions speak to me and tell me what a selfless young man you are. For a short time you made the world a better place. Rest In Peace.”

Cornelia Apold, whose son attended school with Anthony, also shared her sympathies with the family.

“We are deeply saddened. Words cannot explain the sorrow and pain we feel for the loss of Anthony,” she wrote. “Marcus has been privileged to know Anthony since first grade. Your family is in our thoughts and prayers. May God give you the strength and comfort needed during this difficult time. Anthony, sweet angel forever in our hearts”

Reach Gina Martinez by e-mail at gmartinez@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4566.

Updated 8:25 am, February 18, 2018
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