‘Paternal instinct’ — rescuers in human chain tried to save boy from ice
EAST BRUNSWICK — Police officers who tried to rescue 13-year-old Yousef Khela from a small pond by forming a chain acted on "paternal instinct" in an effort to pull the boy from the ice, a police spokesperson said.
The teen ultimately died after being transported to a local hospital. He was one of two New Jersey teens who died after falling into separate icy ponds on the same day.
Officers formed a human chain and entered the pond at Civic Center Drive in East Brunswick, where the township's police headquarters is located, about 4:55 p.m. on Wednesday afternoon after two of Khela's friends, who also had fallen through the ice, had rescued themselves.
Six officers and two firefighters had to be treated for hypothermia, East Brunswick police spokesman Lt. Frank Sutter said. Two officers and one firefighter were hospitalized as a result.
Sutter said the water was so cold that the officers had to be warmed up before they could be transported.
The officers don't receive special training for these types of situations, and Sutter said it was "paternal instinct" that kicked in when the officers saw what was going on.
"They did whatever they could do at the very minute it was going on to get the kid out," Sutter said.
Sutter said the pond is not very big, and kids don't use the pond a lot, although a group was kicked off the ice the day before.
"It's just a small pond that mainly has geese. There's farmland next to it. The geese fly in, do their thing and fly right back out. I've never seen kids on it," Sutter said.
An officer who was involved in a crash with another vehicle en route to the scene suffered a broken foot and was also released from a hospital.
A private liturgy was planned before a funeral at 10 a.m. Friday at Saint Mary Coptic Orthodox Church at 433 Riva Ave.
The township also is holding a vigil Sunday at 1 Civic Center Drive in East Brunswick from 5 to 6 p.m.
Khela was the second Middlesex County teen to fatally fall through ice on Wednesday. David Tillburg drowned on Carteret Pond in Carteret after going under the ice. He died several hours later at Newark Beth Israel Medical Center.
A GoFundMe page was created to help with David's family with funeral expenses.
More from New Jersey 101.5