GAITHERSBURG, Md. (WJLA) - A single bouquet of yellow carnations now marks the spot where divers pulled three young boys out of an icy Montgomery County sediment pond, one of whom died after remaining submerged for 30 minutes.
Around 4:15 p.m Monday, D'Angelo McMullen, 10, his brother and classmate fell through a thin sheet of ice floating above the body of murky storm water. Rescuers managed to pull D'Angelo's brother Jonathan, 11, and a 10-year-old neighborhood boy from the bone-chilling water within five minutes, but it took half-an-hour to locate DJ, as his friends and family called him.
Montgomery County paramedics rushed McMullen's limp body to an area hospital where he succumbed to his injuries shortly after 7 p.m. Monday.
McMullen was a fourth grader at Rosemont Elementary School in Gaithersburg. Grief counselors were on hand Tuesday to help the nearly 600 students and staff members cope with their loss.
"DJ was a good, energetic student, well-liked by his peers. He had only been here for one year in Montgomery County, but we got to know him well," principal Jimmy Sweeney said during a rainy Tuesday media conference.
Following 3:05 p.m. dismissal Monday, school officials say McMullen boarded a school bus headed for his neighborhood. Shortly after being dropped-off near his Reprise Drive townhome, McMullen and the other two boys walked to the muddy shores of the partially un-gated retention pond. Neighbors say it was a case of "boys being boys."
"They called it skating, but they'd basically just glide across the ice with their sneakers," a father whose son played in the neighborhood with McMullen told ABC7.
School leaders say McMullen had a budding relationship with his teacher, was fascinated by science and embodied a gregarious spirit.
"DJ was looking forward to being a patrol student next year, he was a very responsible student and we are all going to miss him terribly here," principal Sweeney added.
Three miles away, counselors were also on-hand at Forest Oak Middle School where McMullen's brother Jonathan, who's expected to be okay, is in the sixth grade.
Although knocks on their door went unanswered, the McMullen family released a statement Tuesday afternoon saying:
“We would like to thank all of our family, friends, and the community for their support during this difficult time. Please respect our privacy while our family grieves the loss of our very special child.”
And Rosemont Elementary School issued this take-home letter for parents to get a better handle on the tragedy: