John Ford

Special to the Grove Sun

SOUTHWEST CITY, Mo. - Two McDonald County children fell through an ice-covered pond Friday afternoon.

Joseph Coday, 12, and his younger sister, Grace, 9, fell through a large pond on their parent’s property near Southwest City at about 3 p.m. Friday. Grace Coday was pronounced dead Friday night at a Joplin hospital, while Joseph Coday was taken to a Kansas City hospital where he died Saturday afternoon.

Gregg Sweeten, McDonald County’s director of emergency management, said he, the McDonald County Sheriff’s Office, and personnel from Freeman Ambulance first responded to the scene.

“Once we got there, we could definitely see something under the ice about 35 feet out,” Sweeten said.

The group got ahold of a couple of boats and used ladders to push personnel in the watercraft onto the ice. Sweeten said the ice was about an inch and a half thick near the shoreline, but thinned further out.

“We got the boy out first,” Sweeten said. “He had been in the water for about an hour.”

Joseph Coday was then airlifted to a Joplin hospital, and was later flown to Children’s Mercy Hospital in Kansas City.

Meanwhile, authorities called in two dive teams, one from Benton County, Ark., the other from Newton County, and spent the next five or so hours searching for Grace Coday. She was found about 8:30 p.m., Sweeten said.

“Eagle Med flew her to Joplin, where she was pronounced at the hospital there,” he said.

The two were active in 4-H, with Grace Coday running for McDonald County Fair princess in 2008, '09, and again this year. She placed second runner up for the title in 2009.

Sweeten said the brother and sister had been sledding near the pond, but parked the sled near the shoreline and apparently tried to walk across the surface. While the ice was about an inch and a half thick at the shoreline, it was thinner further out. The pond measured about 350-feet by 200-feet, and was reportedly 25-feet deep.

Sweeten urged people not to walk on ice covered ponds.

“It may look thick on the shore, but two or three feet out, it might thin out again,” he said. “And the water is so cold, it pretty much will paralyze you to the point if you go through the ice, you can’t do anything to get yourself out.”

In all, between 30 and 40 rescue personnel searched for the children, Sweeten said.

“We got a lot of help, a lot of great people did everything they could to get them out of there and to the hospital,” he said. “We had five divers from Benton County and a couple of support members and five from the Newton County dive team and about five of their support members.”