A fun-filled outing of ice fishing on a Michigan lake turned tragic when a father and his 4-year-old son fell through the ice as they made their way back to the shoreline, which was just 8 feet away.
Wearing snowmobile suits that quickly got soaked in the icy water, both drowned, authorities say.
David Lyons, 30, and his son Jackson, 4, were found by dive teams Monday underneath the water of Alderman Lake in Highland Township, Oakland County Sheriff Michael Bouchard tells PEOPLE.
The father and son had been ice fishing on the lake, about 50 miles northwest of Detroit, when Jackson got cold and they started heading back, Bouchard says.
But as they approached the shore, the ice, which was about two inches thick at that point, cracked, and they fell into 8-12 feet of water, Highland Township Fire Chief Richard Cole tells PEOPLE.
“The ice was thinner near the shore and there’s a lot of open water,” Cole tells PEOPLE. “When you get water movement, you don’t have good ice.”
While police can’t confirm the specific details, Steve Strasz, Lyons’s stepfather, tells PEOPLE that he spoke to a friend of Lyons’s who was fishing with him but was some distance away, and reported that he saw Lyons’s head briefly reemerge from the water.
The friend “knows that David could have escaped and save himself, but instead he dove back in to save his boy,” and both ended up drowning, Strasz tells PEOPLE.
Christina Podvin, David’s fianc e and Jackson’s mother, tells PEOPLE, “David wouldn’t leave our son and he went in for him.”
Neither was wearing a life preserver and their outerwear inadvertently became a liability, Cole says.
“Their snowsuits were like a dead sponge and it just took them under in a very short time,” he says. They were under water about 25 to 30 minutes before police divers were able to get them out, he said.
Bouchard says because of Michigan’s relatively mild winter this year, “no ice is predictably safe in my county,” he tells PEOPLE. “The look of it doesn’t tell you.”
Podvin, who said Lyons was her high school sweetheart, said he worked as a barber in Highland Township and in his off hours enjoyed the outdoors, hunting, fishing and riding his four-wheeler.
Their son loved dressing up as different superheroes, riding his four-wheeler and watching the Green Bay Packers. “It was their favorite football team and we had to wear our family jerseys on game days,” Podvin says.
Strasz says he always enjoyed Jackson’s visits. “Even when he was being a terror because he hadn’t had a nap, he’d still do something to make you laugh,” he says. “It’s going to be so quiet in our house.”
As for his stepson, Strasz says, “He was rough around the edges, but he had a heart of gold on the inside.”
Podvin adds, “He was an amazing father.”
Podvin, a waitress who is working toward a nursing degree, and a friend have established a GoFundMe page and plan to donate the money in Jackson’s name for children who need glasses but can’t afford them.
Funeral services are being held Friday for the father and son Friday in Highland Township.