It is often in times of great tragedy that humanity shows its true colors. And that’s exactly what happened this week after a 7th-grade boy named Joshua Demarest was killed in Greenwich, New York. According to CNN, Joshua and his friend Tyler Day were outside playing in the freshly-fallen snow on Tuesday when they found a large snowbank and decided to made it into a fort — a fort that unfortunately collapsed and trapped them.
Tyler survived; Joshua did not.
The last time the boys’ families saw them, they were heading outside, bundled up in winter clothes and dragging their sleds behind them. As a parent of kids who love the snow, I can picture them walking away, laughing and scheming about building the best fort ever. But when they didn’t return home on time, their parents grew concerned, and the search began. Eventually tracks in the snow and a police dog led them to the snowbank where they found a sled and the two boys trapped inside. As the crew frantically removed seven tons of snow in a mere minutes, Joshua’s family saw their worst nightmare come true.
According to multiple reports, there’s a possibility that snow plows dumped snow on top of their fort, not knowing the boys were inside; but of course, the tragic accident was just that: a tragic accident, with no one to blame. Still, public works Superintendent Leo Flynn told the Times Union this week that his workers “are devastated” — and understandably so. These boys were outside, enjoying adventure and fresh air, and the public works employees were simply doing their jobs.
Inside Edition reports that according to Tyler, he and Joshua heard the truck in the parking lot, but continued playing in the snowbank as there were trucks in that area all the time. He survived due to a hole in the snow, allowing him to breathe while rescuers searched for the boys for several hours. State Police Officer Joseph Bearer calls it a miracle that Tyler even lived.
To add to their pain though, the Demarest family also lost a grandmother on the very same day of Joshua’s death. Joshua’s mother Rachael was in New Jersey saying goodbye when she received news of the accident. While she raced home to be by her son’s side, Joshua’s grandfather was with him.
According to Inside Edition, his grandfather later opened up about the incident on Facebook, writing: “Although [Joshua] was unresponsive, we were able to stand beside him, hold his hand, whisper in his ear … We are devastated, thankful to live in a small village where support is strong and swift. May we all endure, and in love for one another, find an accepting peace.”
The grief this family is experiencing, of losing both Joshua and his grandmother on the same day, is almost too great to imagine. And for Joshua’s friends and those that knew him, news of his death has undoubtedly send shockwaves through his school. Superintendent of Greenwich Schools, Mark Fish, says grief counselors will be available for students and faculty in the coming days. Sadly though, these students are no stranger to tragedy, as Joshua and Tyler were classmates with Connor McLaughlin, a 12-year-old boy who died in March after he was hit by a falling rock while hiking.
But thankfully, in a world where Internet commentators are quick to judge and place blame after such tragedies, it seems kindness is winning for the Demarest family. A GoFundMe page was set up to help offset their funeral expenses this week, and it raised $24,000 — in one single day. Many donors remained anonymous, leaving a flood of condolences on the wall.
“So sad,” read one comment. “They were only doing what boys do. Prayers for the family.”
Joshua is described on the GoFundMe page is a “funny young man who loved soccer, football, and his family.” He and Tyler lived three houses apart and were very close — “like brothers,” says Chai Stark, manager of a youth center they frequently visited.
To be taken from this world at an innocent 13 years of age, while enjoying a time-honored tradition with a friend is truly heartbreaking. I can only hope his family finds comfort in the kindness shown them by their community and strangers from all corners of the country who have offered to help.
Rest in peace, Joshua. We hope you’re having fun in the snow.
If you’d like to contribute to the Demarest Family’s GoFundMe page, you can do so here.More On