East Brunswick, Carteret sued over teens’ icy drownings two years ago

·3 min read

The parents of two teenagers who died in East Brunswick and Carteret two years ago when they both fell through ice and drowned in ponds on municipal property have filed wrongful death lawsuits against both towns.

The two lawsuits were filed last week, one day before the second anniversary of the deaths of 13-year-old Yousef Khela in East Brunswick and 15-year-old David J. Tillberg III in Carteret.

The statute of limitations for filing a wrongful death lawsuit in New Jersey is two years.

Both lawsuits filed in Superior Court in Middlesex County charge both towns with negligence for not taking measures to prevent children from going onto the bonds.

In addition, the lawsuit filed by Eshak Khela, Yousef's father, also alleges that East Brunswick police officers standing outside of police headquarters within sight of the pond shouted to Yousef and his friends to draw their attention but "instead of walking or running to the children or dispatching police personnel to the pond in order to remove the boys from the iced-covered pond, make sure they were safe, remove them from the area of the pond, call the boys' parents or doing whatsover that would have prevented harm" they "did nothing, turned their backs and walked back inside a door to police headquarters."

Yousef Khela
Yousef Khela

Around 4:55 p.m. Jan. 22, 2020, police responded to the icy pond at Civic Center Drive near the East Brunswick Municipal Complex on a report that juveniles had fallen through the ice.

Yousef and two friends were visiting the Volunteer and Veterans Park within the complex and were on the pond when they fell through the ice. Two male juveniles were able to get out of the water, but Yousef remained.

READ: 'The funniest kid you'd meet': East Brunswick teen mourned after drowning

Police officers immediately formed a human chain and entered the pond to rescue the boy, but he slipped under the ice before they could reach him.

All East Brunswick fire districts were dispatched and were able to recover Yousef. He was taken to Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital in critical condition where he died.

The Middlesex County Medical Examiner determined the cause of Yousef's death was drowning with hypothermia, according to the lawsuit.

Six police officers and two firefighters were treated for hypothermia following rescue efforts.

Yousef was an eighth-grade student at Churchill Junior High School.

David Tillberg III
David Tillberg III

The lawsuit in the death of Tillberg was filed by his parents, David J. Tillberg Jr., of Carteret, and Natalie Santiago, of Haverhill, Massachusetts.

READ: 'He was so perfect': Carteret teen mourned after drowning

Around 7:12 p.m. Jan. 22, 2020, David and another teen fell through the ice of the pond in Carteret Park. One teen was able to rescue himself and first responders made several unsuccessful attempts to rescue David before water rescue crews were able to remove him from the water.

He was taken to University Hospital in Newark where he died the next morning.

David was an eighth-grade student at Carteret Middle School.

Email: srussell@gannettnj.com

Suzanne Russell is a breaking news reporter for MyCentralJersey.com covering crime, courts and other mayhem. To get unlimited access, please subscribe or activate your digital account today.

This article originally appeared on MyCentralJersey.com: East Brunswick, Carteret sued over teens’ icy drownings two years ago