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Gwinnett County Community Mourning Two Accidental Winter-Related Deaths

In the wake of the recent snow and ice storms, a Gwinnett County middle school is left mourning two students who fell through the ice and died in the freezing water.

Fourteen year old Jacob Bullock and thirteen year old Marvens Mathurin died in the afternoon on Jan. 9 when the ice on the lake at the Daniel Creek subdivision in Dacula broke under them. Alex Paul, fifteen and a third friend, was also present and also fell into the water. Paul survived the ordeal to give an account of what happened. In light of the deaths of his two friends, his story becomes a cautionary reminder to respect the dangers of this cold weather.

Paul explained that he Bullock and Mathurin went to the frozen lake at their subdivision that Saturday afternoon after seeing some girls playing on the solid ice. He says that they spent twenty or thirty minutes playing on the ice themselves after the girls left. Paul and Bullock were heading toward the shore when they heard Mathurin calling out behind them.

“He said, ‘Alex, help me please,'” Paul said as he described the event. Looking back, he discovered Mathurin had broken through the ice.

Paul dropped to his stomach to crawl across the ice back toward his friend, while Bullock walked behind him. Paul explained that then, “The whole ice collapsed and Jacob fell in.”

“I tried to get myself out but the ice kept breaking,” Paul said. “I told Jacob to do like I was doing but he said he couldn’t do it.”

Mathurin and Bullock disappeared under the icy water while Paul continued to struggle and eventually was able to make his way back to the shore. He reached the shore just as emergency response personnel arrived. Tommy Rutledge, a spokesman for the Fire Department, said that the rescuers made seeing to Paul their first priority. Their training also demanded that they not go in the water until their equipment had arrived.

When their boat finally arrived, firefighters moved out onto the lake to recover the bodies of the two dead boys. Much of the neighborhood – including a number students at the boys’ school – were present to see the bodies as they were brought ashore.

Neighbors and classmates, nearly 300 of them, remembered the boys on the day after the accident. They arrived at the lake 24 hours after the drowning to pay their respects, share memories and offer prayers. Two wooden crosses were added to the shoreline scenery to collect tokens of the survivors’ grief: teddy bears, balloons, and flowers.

Osborne Middle School augmented their counseling staff with an additional eight grief counselors and psychologists to help students deal with their loss. The sudden deaths stunned both students and faculty, many of whom saw the two boys at a basketball game on the day that they died.

“For many kids, this is their first loss,” said John Campbell, the school principal. “This is not a normal day at Osborne Middle School.”
We often think of ice accidents as occurring in the northern part of the country, but this incident is an all too startling reminder that accidents can just as easily occur here at home. The next time freezing weather strikes, encourage kids and adults alike to stay off the ice.