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The Journals are the premier publications for high-quality, hyperlocal news and advertising in Monmouth County, New Jersey

Dec 22, 2020

Mom of Children Saved from Middletown Pond Thanks the Five Young Heroes

By Julia Mortimer, Contributor Melissa Acquaviva

Photo Provided by Stephanie Irlbeck

Two siblings were sledding on Thursday at Beacon Hill Country Club in Middletown when they lost control of their sleds and slid onto a frozen lake. The ice cracked and the two were slipped into the freezing water.

Olivia Heid, 8, and her brother RJ, 4, were eager to sled; this was their first time. They found the perfect sledding hill for a memorable winter day.

The siblings’ mother, Stephanie Irlbeck, explained, “First time down the hill was perfect! We all went down, we all walked back up and put the kids back on the sled.” The second trip down the hill is when the pair hit an ice patch and changed direction, heading straight toward the pond. Irlbeck described the pond as about 30 feet wide and said her children landed about seven feet into it.

The ice cracked under Olivia and RJ almost instantly, and their sleds began to sink. Their father was screaming from the top of the hill to jump off the sleds, but they were panicked. Teens throwing rocks into the pond from a nearby tree heard the father yelling and ran toward the water to help.

The Irlbeck Family

The five boys — Tyler Armagan, Ryan Day, Kieran Foley, Drew Scalice and Joey Dietrich — worked together to get the siblings out of the water. Foley jumped into the water without hesitation, Irlbeck said. “No fear. No fear of losing material things. No fear of hurting himself in the process. As Kiernan was running toward the kids, the muck and mud sucked his boots off. He did it all barefoot.”

The boys formed a human chain to get RJ and Olivia out of the freezing water unscathed. Though the water was only about three feet deep, RJ would not have been able to swim, his mother said. After both kids made it out of the water, the boys made sure they were okay.

Irlbeck’s husband gave Foley, who was soaked up to his chest and barefoot, his sweatpants and boots. He did not even accept a ride home from the grateful parents.

You could say the boys, two of whom are scouts with Boy Scout Troop 47 out of Leonardo, were prepared for this very moment with their training from various scouting events. Don Antenucci Sr., the Camping Program Chairman with the Boy Scouts of America and associate with Troop 140 of Fairview, noted on Facebook that scouts go through rigorous training every winter with the scouting program. They practice ice rescue at the Klondike Derby and are also taught in their handbooks. He explained, “This is another example of scouting in action.”

“My kids are doing very well thanks to the bravery of the boys!” Irlbeck gushed. “My husband and I are forever grateful,” she added.