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Boy, 13, Saves Two Friends who Fell Through Ice

Local firefighters and the parents of two 13-year-old boys who fell through the ice on Potowomut Pond Sunday are calling Riley Beard a hero.

At left, Riley Beard, 13, saved the lives of two friends who fell through the ice on Potowomut Pond on Sunday, including Devon Ciunci, at right. (Photo courtesy Kristen Howard)
At left, Riley Beard, 13, saved the lives of two friends who fell through the ice on Potowomut Pond on Sunday, including Devon Ciunci, at right. (Photo courtesy Kristen Howard)

It all happened in less than a minute.

Three 13-year-old North Kingstown boys were walking on the ice on Potowomut Pond on Sunday afternoon.

They had a sleepover the night before. They were warned not to go near the ice before they headed out the door.

At first, “we were skeptical about going on it,” said Riley Beard, a student at Davisville Middle School. 

But one of them wanted to go onto the ice, so they ventured out despite the warnings.

Beard skates on ponds with his dad, so he has a sense of when the ice is safe and when it isn’t. He lags a few steps behind his two friends.

One of the boys is out front and he gets closer and closer to the middle of the pond.

“He wanted to go across to the other side, so he started walking towards the middle,” Beard said, noting that the ice was getting thinner and thinner the further they went out.

The ice began waving, swaying up and down. It began to crack. That’s when the first boy fell in. The other friend, Devan Ciunci, “started going towards him and I stood still because I didn’t want to fall in but he fell in too.” 

“I was scared at that point,” Beard said.

But he had to do something. 

“I started going towards them a little. I saw the ice wasn’t safe enough to go down to where they were and we were in kind of a bad place to be in, so I had to step back to safer ice and they kept breaking the ice around them, trying to get up on the ice,” Beard said.

They were screaming “help us, save us,” as they struggled in the shock of the numbing, ice-cold water.

“But I knew that if I went over to them I’d fall in,” Beard said. 

Beard followed the thicker ice, inching along so he could get just a few feet closer. The two boys in the water punched and fought their way through sheets and chunks of ice to get closer to Beard, who got on his knees, afraid of both falling through and that his best friends might die.

“I went on my knees and I grabbed one of their hands and I just pulled them out of the water. I was just trying to pull them without me going in with them,” Beard said. 

By then, three separate people had called 911, including a nearby homeowner, who took them inside to wait for responders. A small group of people had gathered, looking on, fearing the worst. And the boys’ parents started getting phone calls letting them know what happened.

Kristen Howard, Ciunci’s mom, said she was shopping in Garden City Center in Cranston when she got the call from her husband. She dropped everything and got in her car.

“I just wanted to get to my son, you can’t even imagine,” Howard said.

The three boys are all eighth graders and have been great friends since elementary school, said Melissa Beard, Riley’s mother. 

“Riley was at a sleepover and I’m taking one kid to catechism, another to baseball practice and I get this call and I’m thinking, ‘you can’t be serious!’” 

She said she’s unimaginably thankful and the day had been surreal. But there’s a  part of her that’s upset. Upset that the boys went out on the ice. Upset because on Sunday night, she watched a 13-year-old boy tell her son that if it weren’t for him, he wouldn’t be alive.

“I haven’t even been able to wrap my brain around the whole incident,” she said. “A boy you know so well and care so much for, you never think they’re going to die that second.”

First responders as well as Riley’s friends and their families are calling him a hero, thankful that he was less of a daredevil and able to stay calm and save his friends.

For Kristen Howard, Riley is a boy she has watched grow up alongside her son. The three “are with each other all the time.”

Tonight, Howard said, Riley is a guardian angel. 

“He truly is a hero,” she said. “He saved my son. He literally saved my son’s life.”

He might be a hero, but there is an important lesson to be learned for these three 13-year-old boys.

The Beards told Riley that they hope he learned from the experience. And chances are, they won’t be venturing out on thin ice anytime soon.

And a few hours later, Riley was off to Communion class. 

Because a hero’s duty is never done. 

David M March 04, 2014 at 06:04 PM
^ A little over the top there, great parenting, awareness of the youngster, and definitely LUCK. I appreciate, and do not denounce any-ones faith or theory for I am just human. Glad there are three souls still living on this here planet of ours.
Kimberly Burt Barry March 04, 2014 at 08:23 PM
Bill you are a jerk and if you are a parent stay away from my kids and my husband would like to put some ice on your nose after he breaks it. Lol jerk J.Barry
Kristen Goins March 08, 2014 at 08:56 PM
First @ Bill: I'm quite positive you have made a bad decision here and there and maybe, just maybe, you'll find a way to reserve judgement on others....unless of course you are in line for saint hood. Second @ Lynn Ciunci......nice post. Appreciate that you and Devan's father think enough of him to pray for him, yet don't think enough of him to come for a visit, go to a game, know his shoe size, or even his favorite song. Pat yourself on the back for all that praying, you truly are amazing people. God Bless you both.
jeff barry March 11, 2014 at 06:02 PM
Bill. Bill, Bill your still the biggest jerk i have never and will never talk to in person ? you live alone no kids no pets no friends yep that's my Bill.

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