Illinois man drowns after wheelchair tips over into pond

News
This is an archived article and the information in the article may be outdated. Please look at the time stamp on the story to see when it was last updated.

SWANSEA, IL (KTVI) A well known Belleville photographer has died after his wheelchair tipped over into a pond. It happened in Swansea, Illinois’ Centennial Park on Sunday.

Gerry Frierdich, known as “Chief” to many in the area, was no stranger to bad luck. Seven years ago he was hit by a car while riding his bicycle on Green Mount Rd. He was paralyzed below the chest.

But that accident didn’t stop his love of photography. Friends recently helped him raise money for a new motorized wheelchair that allowed him to get more places. One of those spots was the far side of the pond in Centennial Park.

“This is what he lived for,” close friend Bud Gore said. “If he couldn’t go back here and couldn’t go these places, he felt trapped.”

He had recently released a calendar of photographs, many taken in the park. Friends suspect he was trying to go a little bit farther, looking for the perfect shot, when he went too far down a bumpy, root filled path along the pond. Police says the uneven ground almost certainly caused the wheelchair to flip. Frierdich was buckled into the chair and plunged into the water with it.

It’s a tough pill to swallow for friends here.

Buddy Gore, 15, described him as “a second father.”

“I don’t think anybody could match his standards. After everything that happened to him he still is the happiest guy I ever met.”

His dad, Bud, agrees.

“He was my best friend” Gore said, choking back a tear. “I just lost him. One of a kind. One of a kind guy.”

Follow George Sells on Twitter:
George Sells on Twitter
Email: george.sells@tvstl.com

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

About FOX 2 News

FOX 2 and KPLR 11 in St. Louis cover the news in Missouri and Illinois. There are over 68 hours of live news and local programming on-air each week. Our website and live video streams operate 24/7. Download our apps for alerts and follow us on social media for updates in your feed.

President Harry Truman said: “It is amazing what you can accomplish if you do not care who gets the credit.” That spirit is alive and well at Fox 2. Our teamwork is on display each and every day.

Our news slogan is: “Coverage You Can Count On.” We quite frankly are too busy to worry about who gets the credit. Our main concern is serving the viewer.

We go where the stories take us. Whether it be Washington, D.C when a Belleville man opened fire during a congressional baseball game practice or to Puerto Rico where local Ameren crews restored power after more than 5 months in the dark.

Coverage You Can Count On means “Waking up your Day” with our top-rated morning show. From 4:00 am-10:00 am we are leading the way with breaking news. But our early morning crew also knows how to have some fun! Our strong commitment to the communities we serve is highlighted with our Friday neighborhood shows.

Our investigative unit consists of three reporters. Elliott Davis focuses on government waste, Chris Hayes is our investigative reporter, and Mike Colombo is our consumer reporter. They work in unison with the news department by sharing resources and ideas.

We continue to cover breaking news aggressively and relied on our seasoned journalists to make a difference with the stories we covered. The shooting of Arnold Police Officer Ryan O’Connor is just one example of that. Jasmine Huda was the only reporter who had exclusive access to the O’Connor family during his amazing rehabilitation in Colorado.

Last, but certainly not least, FOX 2 and KPLR 11 are committed to covering local politics. We host debates among candidates and have the most extensive presidential election coverage. Our commitment to politics isn’t just during an election year. We produce two political shows that air every weekend.

Popular

Latest News

More News