The tragic deaths of two young brothers are “going to be hard to get over for a long time,” said Opal Kamper, a neighbor that often spoke to the boys who died over the weekend after drowning in a pond.
Cleveland “C.J.” Hicks, 7, and Terrance Hicks, 8, went for a bike ride together on Sunday but when they didn’t return home when they were supposed to, family members went searching for them. That’s when the younger of the two siblings was found floating in a pond on private property in St. Clair, Mo. Divers found Terrance soon after, and both boys were pronounced dead later at the hospital, PEOPLE reports.
Sheriff Steven Pelton told CNN that one of the boys may have slipped into the water and the other attempted to rescue him.
“Ice is not safe until you have approximately 4- to 5-inch thick ice,” St. Clair Fire Protection District Chief Craig Sullivan told KWCH. He noted that the thickness of ice on ponds can be hard to determine as temperatures warm, “and with the weather temperatures we’ve been experiencing, we have not had a long stretch of extremely cold weather to thicken that ice,” he added.
“It’s just a shock to me, it’s going to be hard to get over for a long time,” said 93-year-old Kamper.
“They would stop by in the evenings and visit with me and I would always give them a hug and they would hug me,” she said. “I would always say ‘I love ya.’ I told them, ‘I love you,’ they knew I loved loved them.”
The tragedy occurred just days ahead of Christmas.
“I had their Christmas gifts ready for them,” Kamper said. “And I thought, ‘Oh I won’t get to give it to them.’”
The Hicks family are reportedly in the process of setting up a GoFundMe page.