by: Ashley Swann Updated:
GORDON COUNTY, Ga. - A north Georgia community is mourning a middle school student who fell into a frozen pond near his home.
“We’ll miss him a lot,” family friend Becky Walters told Swann. “He was just a fantastic kid."
Walters says she and her neighbors are heartbroken over Joseph’s death. He was her son’s best friend.
She said he and several other boys were playing on the frozen pond Thursday afternoon when they fell in the water.
“That’s where they go fishing during the summer, ride four-wheelers around us,” said Walters. “But there's nothing there to keep them from getting on ice or anything."
All of the other boys fell in the water but were able to get themselves out, but not Joseph.
Gordon County Sheriff Mitch Ralston tells Channel 2 Action News that rescue crews went to extreme measures to save him, using four-wheelers to navigate the rough terrain and frozen conditions just to reach him.
“They wanted to find that child,” Ralston told Swann.
"I am so proud of the way the men responded because there's not too many people that would enter into freezing water like they did,” said Ralston. “They showed great compassion, great bravery.”
With the help of the local fire department, crews finally did find Joseph and rushed him to an area hospital. Sadly, it was too late. Ralston estimates he had been in the water around 40 minutes.
“My heart goes out to him and his family,” said Walters.
“We kept saying last night, 'Why didn't he listen? Why didn't he listen?' But they're kids. You don't think that’s going to happen to you,” Walters told Swann. “If anything comes of this, I hope that they drain it and fill it, or put a fence around it. That way we won't have to suffer like this again."